Our blog about books, authors and reading

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 »

August Books Plus

Art of Racing in the RainIt's hard to believe we will soon be entering the dog days of August. And speaking of dogs, our book for discussion this month features a lab-terrier mix, the very lovable Enzo, who does all that he can to pull a family together during a custody battle. And what can be more interesting than a philosophical dog? In The Art of Racing in the Rain Enzo is sure that next time around, he will return as a human being. But is he already human enough? Come join Elizabeth next Sunday in discussing this wonderful dog and his great love for his family.

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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Dancing Backwards

Dancing BackwardIf you've never taken a cruise and are considering one, this novel paints this form of travel in a good light, especially if you are thinking of a transatlantic one. Recently-widowed Violet Hetherington impulsively decides to visit a dear male friend from her youth in New York City and treats herself to a good berth with a balcony. Not only does she describe the foibles and habits of the upper classes, but she also details everyday encounters with the ship's staff.
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