The neverending debate of “which is better, the book or the movie?” continues with the recent release of the movie The Help. Based on Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel, the movie has a lot to live up to.

Published in 2009, The Help received excellent reviews but started off fairly quietly. It soon became a sleeper hit – it’s been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 100 weeks and is easily the most requested title at the library these days.

The novel is told from the the point-of-view of three narrators relating the story of African-American maids working for white families in the Jackson, Mississippi in 1962. The characters are real and complex, their stories are heartbreaking and funny, and the dangers they face are life threatening. I read the book before it really took off and blogged about it here. It’s still one of my favorite books.

The movie opened just last week and stars Viola Davis, Emma Stone and Octavia Spencer. There has been a fair amount of controversy about the making of this movie – Stockett’s longtime best friend Tate Taylor adapted and directed the film, even though he has directed only a couple of small films previously; there was talk that he wouldn’t be able to handle a big, important movie. Never fear, the movie is beautifully done with several Oscar-worthy performances, and settings that  transport you to the Deep South of the 1960s. Just like the book, you’ll laugh and cry and be inspired by these courageous women. (Although the movie is several months from coming out on DVD, you can be assured that the Davenport Library will purchase multiple copies when it’s available!)

My recommendation? Read the book AND see the movie.

I’m normally wary of anything that has too much hype surrounding it, because generally I feel like it can’t possibly be as good as everyone says it is.  I’m sure you’ve heard of Mad Men, as it is constantly hyped as one of the best shows on TV and has won multiple Emmys and Golden Globes.  If you’ve never seen it, it’s set in the 1960s in New York City, and it’s all about  the “golden age” of advertising on Madison Avenue and the glamorous life that the ad men led.  Last week I finally checked out a couple of episodes and I have to say, it really is fantastic.  What I’m enjoying most about the show is the look and feel of it.  Not only does it seem very historically accurate, it’s such a beautiful period piece.  Everything from the clothes and the hair to the scenery is lovely to look at.

The acting in the show has also been wildly acclaimed, and it is also superb.  Jon Hamm is fascinating to watch as Sterling Cooper’s morally-complex creative director Don Draper.  You want to root for Don because he’s so charismatic and such an advertising genius, but he is certainly no angel.  I’m also finding myself really interested in the storyline of Peggy, the naive new secretary to Don.  We’re learning about how things work at Sterling Cooper right along with Peggy as she is thrown into a world filled with double standards between the men and the women.  If you’re looking for a great drama series to watch and are especially interested in learning a little more about the past, I highly recommend checking out Mad Men.  Currently we own season one, season two, season three, and season four, so stop by any of our three locations to look for one today!