Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check-in

Howdy Readers! How’s your Westward Expansion reading experience going this month?

I am working away at reading Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage which recounts the journey of Lewis and Clark. It has been a bit of a slog so far – interesting but maybe too detailed – but I haven’t gotten to the actual journey yet. Things should pick up then.

If you’re still searching for a book to read be sure to stop by any of the Davenport Library locations and check our displays which have a variety of interesting titles. Or reach for a DVD – we have a wide range to choose from. You can go classic/nostalgic and check out a television Western which used to be so popular – Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza or The Virginian. We also have a huge collection of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood westerns.

If you’d like to look beyond the stereotypes, there are some excellent documentaries that are well worth watching. Lewis and Clark: the Journey of the Corps of Discovery and The West, both produced by Ken Burns, are beautifully done.

For a modern, often violent look at the Old West try There Will Be Blood or The Revenant or the remake of True Grit.

Online Reading Challenge – July

Hey Folks! It’s time for a new month of reading with our Online Reading Challenge! What will you read this month?

The theme for July is Westward Expansion. Most of us probably immediately think of cowboys and Native Americans and the “wild west” and while there are several very good Westward Expansion books with exactly this setting, you don’t have to limit yourself to that era. In reality the “wild west” only lasted a few decades, no matter that it holds such a vivid place in our imagination. Westward expansion  started with the arrival of colonists on the East coast of the continent, continuing through US history as the population pushed westward, including into Alaska.

Unfortunately, Westward Expansion also encompasses some of the worst of American history, the treatment of Native Americans which ranged from poor to horrific. This might be the time to read more about their history. Try the modern classic Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: an Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown or The Earth is Weeping: the Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West by Peter Cozzens for insights into the story of these proud people.

There are a lot of great books to read in this category, including some American classics. Try My Antonia by Willa Cather for an evocative, breathtaking view of life on the prairies. Two of my personal favorites are Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – a chunk of a book that nevertheless ends too soon – and News of the World by Paulette Jiles – a slim volume packed with heartfelt emotion. Both of these titles recall a time when the West was still raw and life was difficult. They depict a time that is, at first look, similar to traditional stories of the West, but in fact both show great depth and the complexity of the time.

Now might be the time to try a classic Western – Max Brand, Zane Grey or Louis L’Amour. For a woman’s view of the West, take a look at the novel The Diary of Mattie Spenser by Sandra Dallas or the non-fiction Frontier Grit: the Unlikely True Stories of Daring Pioneer Women by Marianne Monson.

I’m setting my sights on Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose about the journey of Lewis and Clark. It’s been on my list for a long time and I’m looking forward to following their epic adventure.

As always, there will be displays with these titles and lots more at each of our library locations. And let us know what you plan to read!

 

Online Reading Challenge – June Wrap-Up

Hello Everyone!

How was your reading in the month of June? Did you find something new and wonderful, or did you revisit a childhood favorite? It was a month full of possibility with the potential for a lot of fun. Let us know how it went for you!

This month I went with a children’s classic, A Wrinkle in Time by Madelaine L’Engle. Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963 (the Newbery is awarded each year to the best children’s book in writing), this is a dramatic adventure story filled with alien creatures, distant planets and fantastical imagery. It’s also a story on a more intimate level – the value of friends and family, loyalty, accepting others as they are, being courageous and, most of all, the power of love.

Meg’s father has been missing for many months and she feels his absence keenly. She doesn’t know what has happened to him, only that he was working on something called a tesseract and no on can explain where he’s gone. When her little brother Charles Wallace introduces her to three strange women living in the woods behind their house, it sets them, along with their friend Calvin, on an incredible journey.

While I enjoyed this book – there’s quite a lot of action and even some scary bits where you just want to know what happens – I think I would have liked it even more if I had read it when I was a kid. Maybe my imagination is too “stuck” now to let go with the flights of fancy described here, or maybe I’m just not scientifically inclined (this book really celebrates math and the sciences). I did love Meg and how brave she was, even when she didn’t feel brave. She’s a young teen, at that awkward and unsure stage, but she’s smart and she’s strong. A role model for anyone.

What did you read this month? What did you think of your choice? Let us know in the comments!

 

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check In

Hello All!

Are you enjoying the June Reading Challenge? Have you found something fun to read? Or are you still looking for the right title?

I’ve started reading my book (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle). I’m still trying to keep all the “mrs’s” straight, but I’m quickly getting caught up in the story. What I’ve found interesting is how other people react when I ask if they’ve read this book. I heard a lot of enthusiastic yeses; everyone seemed to love it. Best response, though, was from a co-worker who told me that A Wrinkle in Time was the book made her a library patron. When the teacher at school that was reading it to her class wasn’t reading fast enough for Shelley, she asked her Mom to take her to the library so that she could check out a copy. Thus began a lifelong love affair with reading (and, I hope, libraries!)

Another great story came from a Challenge reader that commented she is going to read a book written in 1898 that had been a childhood favorite of her mother. I love this idea! It shows how books are a bridge – to the past, to the future, to knowledge, to entertainment and that they can also be a connection to the people in our lives. Books (stories) are magic.

Let us know what you’re reading and, maybe, why you chose what you did!

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – June

Hello Fellow Readers!

It’s a new month and that means it’s time for our next Online Reading Challenge! This month it’s – Childhood.

I’ve got to admit, I’ve been looking forward to this month’s challenge. It’s pretty wide open to interpretation, so there are lots of possibilities. Let’s look at some suggestions.

Read a Children’s Classic You Missed.These are the books that tend to stay with us always and that have a big impact on how we view the world. Also, to be considered a classic, they have to be good enough to be read by multiple generations of children. You can’t go wrong with A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, any title by Beverly Cleary, the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder or my favorite, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (I still remember laying on the couch in my grandparent’s farmhouse, sobbing at the ending).

Revisit a Childhood Favorite. Did you read lots of Nancy Drew growing up? Try re-reading one and see how it holds up. Or, if you read the more recent titles (the “re-boot”), try reading one of the original titles. The same goes for the Babysitter’s Club or the Boxcar Children series. Or dig up that title that was so amazing when you read it as a kid – is it still amazing or has it lost some of its magic?

Read What Your Children/Grandchildren Are Reading. Find out what’s so awesome about Harry Potter (lots) or Percy Jackson or the Wimpy Kid. Pick a title that he or she is reading right now and read along – think what fun it’ll be to discuss it later and learn what they think of the book!

Try Something New. Children’s literature is pretty amazing and not just for kids. I highly recommend Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Smile by Rainia Telgemeier, Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson as well as many others. These books deal with difficult subjects in thoughtful and sometimes humorous ways and never talk down to their audience. You’ll also find lots of great books on the Newbery shelf (the Newbery is the award given annually for excellence in children’s literature)

Adult Books with a Child Narrator. Although somewhat uncommon, there are some excellent adult fiction books told from the point-of-view of a child including Room by Emma Donoghue, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon, and the Flavia de Luce mystery series by C. Alan Bradley.

I am planning on reading A Wrinkle in Time, a classic I somehow missed. I’m assured it’s very good, so I’m very much looking forward to reading it!

As always, we’ll have displays at each of our buildings with lots more great titles to choose from. Some of these books are pretty slim – maybe you’ll have time to read more than one! So what about it, what are you reading this month?

Online Reading Challenge – May Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Fans of Reading!

How was your May reading? Did you find something incredible that was set in Ancient times? Or was this month a pass for you?

May was almost a pass for me – I rarely read anything set in this time period. I wasn’t coming across anything that grabbed my attention until I picked up the new book by Madeline Miller and just like that, May turned into another winner for me! (so far I’m five out of five this year!)

Circe is about the Greek goddess of sorcery. She is often depicted as cruel and evil, turning people who displease her into animals or monsters. But Circe is told from her point-of-view and, while she isn’t exactly a kind and gentle spirit, there is a lot more to her story than pure evil.

Born to the sun god Helios, Circe grows up in her father’s vast palace and wants for nothing. However, she is different than the nymphs and naiads of her family and is treated with derision. When she defies the gods once too often (turning a nymph she is jealous of into a monster) her father exiles her to a remote island. Here she must live alone and it is here that she hones her skills as a witch.

Although she is in exile, the world comes to her again and again. We see her encounters with Prometheus, with Daedelus and Icarus, with Odysseus and Penelope and her confrontation with Scylla (the monster she created). Circe grows and changes with her exile, regrets past mistakes and tries to atone for them. She is complicated and multi-layered, neither entirely good or bad, much like us mere mortals.

This book is incredibly well written. There is lots of beautiful imagery, but this does not drag down or slow the flow of the story. The stories of the gods themselves, as it has been for centuries, are compelling. Miller’s twist, to see it from Circe’s point-of-view, creates lots of new insights into these beings – they are selfish, egotistical, dysfunctional, vain and cruel (many of the mortal heroes are no better, especially Odysseus). That Circe has her eyes opened to these faults and tries to rise above them makes her unique and interesting. Highly recommended.

Now it’s your turn – what did you read in May?

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check-in!

Hello All!

How is your reading going this month? Have you found something set in the Ancient world to read, or are you taking a pass? I am about halfway through reading Circe by Madeline Miller which I am enjoying a lot. I’ll tell you more about it and have my final review at the end of the month.

If you’re still looking for ideas, be sure to check the comment from Lin on the May 1 blog post – they have given us a nice list of favorites from this time period!

If you’re running short on time, try a movie or documentary! Here are a few suggestions:

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Online Reading Challenge – May

Hello Readers! Welcome to the Online Reading Challenge, May edition! This month we’re going to explore books set in Ancient Times.

This is another fairly broad time period. “Ancient times” is roughly described as prehistoric/dawn of civilization to the fall of the Roman Empire. That’s a lot of history people! Let’s break it down into a few categories.Of course, this isn’t official and there’s a fair amount of overlap but remember – there are no Library Police! Read what you’d like!

Prehistoric/Early Civilization – The go-to authors for this time period are Jean Auel and Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear was a huge sensation when it came out and was very popular for many months. Be prepared for a thick, immersive read! The Gear’s, a husband and wife team, have written, together and separately, dozens of books about prehistoric North America, focusing on the Native American peoples, starting with People of the Wolf.

Egyptian – Delve into one of the earliest civilizations with Agatha Christie’s Death Comes as the End. A departure from her usual setting, this book is nevertheless a mystery masterpiece.

Roman – There is no shortage of books set during ancient Roman times. Check out Robert Harris for thrilling and action-packed titles including Pompeii and Imperium. A nice bridge between Egypt and Rome, Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran is the story of Cleopatra and Marc Antony’s children, left to the Roman conquerors after their parents committed suicide.

As for myself, this is not a time period that I’m particularly interested in and I’m still considering what to read. Anyone have any favorites they’d like to recommend?

Be sure to stop by any of the Davenport library locations for our Online Reading Challenge display – there will be lots of titles at each for you to browse through!

Online Reading Challenge – April Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Reading Fans!

How did your  “1800s” reading go in April? Exciting? Interesting? A non-starter?

I struggled a bit to find something to read this month. I think the “1800s”, while full of many excellent titles, was a bit to broad. There was almost too much choice. A more defined time period, while limiting choices, would make it easier to find a real gem. In fact, I had decided I would re-watch some favorite Jane Austen movies, but at the last minute I found a book that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. That book was The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier.

Honor Bright, a young Quaker woman living in England in 1850, is jilted by her intended and decides, at the last minute, to join her sister who is immigrating to America to marry. The month-long Atlantic crossing is very difficult for Honor and further tragedy strikes during the journey to Ohio. Honor finds herself homesick, alone and struggling to find her place in a strange land.

America is very different from the England Honor grew up in; where England is settled and solid, America is raw and constantly changing. Survival is a constant struggle and comforts are meager. While people are kind, they are not particularly welcoming, absorbed in their own problems and struggles. And political tensions run high, often pitting neighbor against neighbor as the question of slavery begins to reach its boiling point – Honor has landed in a tiny settlement near Oberlin, Ohio, known as a safe stop for runaway slaves following the Underground Railroad.

Honor’s Quaker religion teaches her to despise slavery and she quickly begins helping the runaways that she encounters at her family’s farm. She soon learns that ideals can suffer in the harsh light of reality; her family forbids her from helping the runaways even though they agree with her views and new laws threaten hefty fines and imprisonment if defied. When a crisis is reached, Honor must decide between her beliefs and the law. Which path will she take and at what cost?

Much like Honor, this book is deceivably simple – a straightforward story line with a clearly drawn situation. But also like Honor, there is a lot of hidden depth here. How do you stand up for your beliefs against the majority? How do you battle loneliness and homesickness when you know you can never return home? How do you find purpose and meaning? There is a lot of  rich imagery, of the beauty and harshness of nature, of the quilts Honor expertly sews and the differences from their English counterparts. I enjoyed the view of a mid-1800s life on what was essentially the frontier, and a glimpse of the Quaker religion, practices and principals. Throughout the book, Honor hangs on to the Quaker belief that “there is Light in everyone” even when people are at their worst; a lesson that has never gone out of style.

OK, now it’s your turn – what did you read this month? Let us know in the comments!

 

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check In

Hello All!

How is your month of 1800s era reading going? Have you found anything particularly wonderful? Please share what you’re reading!

I, sadly, am not faring too well. I’ve tried a couple Victorian-times mysteries and could not get caught up in either one. Admittedly, I usually don’t read mysteries, so it’s not a big surprise that they didn’t work for me. I’m still searching, but I may decide to simply indulge myself a bit and re-watch some favorite Jane Austen movie adaptations. It sounds lovely (to me!).

If you’re still looking, here are a couple more suggestions for the 1800s.

A new book, The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Fitzharris Lindsey should be creepily fascinating. Medicine was still pretty primitive in the 1800s. It’s thanks to the efforts of John Lister that many, many more people didn’t die and that medicine advanced to much safer measures. Lister introduced anesthesia for use during surgery, pasteurization and a greater understanding of bacteria and infection. A fascinating, gory look at the history of medicine!

If you are having trouble untangling the manners and customs of Austen and Dickens and the Victorians of England, be sure to pick up a copy of What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Danial Pool. This book is great fun, easy to dip in and out of or read cover to cover. All kinds of subjects are covered including society, fashion and the home. There’s also a handy glossary at the back to explain the more obscure (to us) terms like quadrille (a card game) or camel leopard (a giraffe). This book really helped me to understand primogeniture, a law which prevented the Bennet and Dashwood sisters from inheriting from their father. It also helped explain the restrictions and limitations put on women.

And now over to you – what are you reading this month?