Online Reading Challenge – August

Hello Again Fellow Readers!

Here it is August – can you believe it? Time for a new Challenge. This month our film inspiration is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, that iconic Western starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

[Please note: a lot of Western fiction has themes of racism, genocide, sexism and slavery to some degree. Unfortunately, it’s part of what makes up this genre. Please choose carefully and read with caution.]

There is no shortage of great books set in the American West from classic Western authors (Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey) to classic American novels (such as Willa Cather’s My Antonia) to modern favorites (like Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry or News of the World by Paulette Jiles, both of which I highly recommend)

There is also all kinds of great non-fiction such as Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, The Pioneers by David McCullough and Dreams of El Dorado: a History of the American West by H. W. Brands.

Interested in reading about some of the bad boys of the West? Try Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West by Thomas Clavin. Or would you like to delve into the gritty world of the cowboy? Then check out Cattle Kingdom: the Hidden History of the Cowboy West by Christopher Knowlton.

Do you like mysteries? If so, I highly recommend C.J. Box’s series about Joe Pickett, a game warden in modern day Wyoming.

And, for extra credit (not that anyone is counting!), the Figge Art Museum has a exhibit currently running that should be of interest: “Magnetic West: the Enduring Allure of the American West” which will run through September 20. Please note: the Figge is open again but due to COVID-19 they are limiting the number of people that can be in the building and requiring the purchase of a timed ticket which you can do online. Totally worth the extra step!

As for myself, I plan to read Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose about the Lewis and Clark’s journey. OK, I admit, I’m cheating here a bit – I had started reading this a few months ago and had to set it aside before finishing. I do want to finish it though, and figure this would be the perfect time!

So, there are a smattering ideas for you – what do you plan to read? Remember, all three of our buildings are open again (limited to 30 minute visits), and curbside pick-up is available at Main and Eastern as is the drive-up window at Fairmount.

Have a great reading month!

 

Online Reading Challenge – July Wrap-Up

Hello Challenge Readers!

How did your baseball-themed reading/watching go this month? There are certainly lots of books and movies to choose from and, as a nice touch – professional baseball was actually played! Hurrah!

(So, how do you feel about the cardboard cutouts and the piped in crowd noises?  The Cubs got it right at Wrigley but  the Mets need do some work….)

For this month I read Calico Joe by John Grisham. I haven’t read a lot of Grisham, just a couple of his early titles, and I have to say, I wasn’t impressed with this one – very disappointing.

The story moves between the present and 1973 when 11-year old Paul Tracey was, like many little boys, completely enamored with baseball. Paul avidly followed his favorite teams and players, keeping scrapbooks and memorizing statistics. What should have made it better, even magical, was that his father Warren was a Major League pitcher with the New York Mets. Unfortunately, Warren was an abusive and uncaring father. His career was fading fast and he takes out his frustration on his family and Paul in particular.

What makes that summer better for Paul is the arrival of Joe Castle in the big leagues. He joins the Cubs in July and immediately makes an impact – a humble kid from the heart of the country with a golden bat. Paul is one of his biggest fans and Warren doesn’t like that. On a fateful day in August, Warren Tracey pitches against Joe and the Cubs and, in a fit of misplaced anger, hits Joe with a pitch. Neither of their careers or lives will ever be the same.

Some 30 years later, Paul tries to make sense of what happened and to reconcile those involved before it’s too late.

While Grisham is a good writer, crisp and clear and no-nonsense, I found that in this case, it didn’t engage me. There is a lot of baseball “language” here and lots of baseball statistics – beloved by baseball fans but cumbersome for the uninitiated. I felt that the emotional impact of the story was muted and distant when it should have been immediate and heartfelt, and it was predictable – I had pretty much figured out what was going to happen from the start. Nevertheless, if you’re a Grisham fan and a baseball fan, you’ll enjoy this book.

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

 

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

Luc O’Donnell is a mess. The son of a semi-famous rock star, he’s been involved in various messy scandals including problems with too much drinking and questionable partners.  When yet another scandalous photo of him in a compromising position appears in the tabloids, Luc’s employer, with it’s many respectable clients, insist that he clean up his act. Pronto.

Enter Oliver Blackwood, the friend of a friend who is in need of a date for an important family event. Oliver is a respected barrister from a prestigious family with a strong moral compass. It doesn’t hurt that he’s devastatingly good looking either. He and Luc have met briefly in the past and took an instant dislike to each other. However, desperate times.

And so, somewhat reluctantly and with many reservations, Luc and Oliver agree to fake date for a few weeks in Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material. At first they simply tolerate – barely – each other and view each other with a lot of suspicion. Luc is not used to a partner that looks out for him and is reliable and thoughtful and Oliver is surprised by Luc’s creativity and intelligence (which had never been on display before). Before long they become friends and then something more. But each thinks the other believes their relationship is fake and that it’ll end soon. Can they overcome the obstacles thrown in their path and see the truth?

This is a typical fake boyfriend trope that is common in romances. Boyfriend Material succeeds because of the likable characters, the devastatingly dry British wit and the funny situations they get themselves into. Hall pokes fun at the British upper class and makes several sly references to the film Notting Hill. And while this is an entertaining read, it has surprising depth too, about family and trust and acceptance. A lovely and charming book.

 

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check-in

Hello Readers!

How has your reading been going this month? Have you found a good book to accompany this month’s film, Field of Dreams? With no Major League baseball until (fingers crossed) the end of the month, no minor league baseball and limited high school baseball, it’s been a very quiet season. But things are looking up; the MLB is set to return beginning July 23 and the highly anticipated “Field of Dreams” game in Dyersville is still scheduled to be played on August 13 (now with the Cardinals playing the White Sox). While you wait for this shortened season to begin, fill your time with some reading and some movies. Here are some baseball films to get you started.

A League of Their Own with an All-Star cast that includes Tom Hanks (“there’s no crying in baseball!”), Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell and many more about an all-women’s league that played during another difficult time in our history, World War II.

Bull Durham. Susan Sarandon and Kevin Costner heat things up in this funny story about a minor league baseball team.

The Natural with Robert Redford, is the story of Roy Hobbs, a baseball phenom that was on the path to stardom until his life takes an unexpected turn.

Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt, is based on the true story of how Bill Beane put together a winning baseball team by drafting players using computer analysis.

Pride of the Yankees with Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig, one of the greatest baseball players of all time who rose from humble roots and faced a devastating disease with courage and honor.

Bang the Drum Slowly starring Robert De Niro, follows the developing friendship between a charismatic and worldly star pitcher and the simple, unsophisticated catcher who learns he is dying of cancer.

 

Online Reading Challenge – July

Greetings Challenge Readers!

Well, we made it to another month. I think that deserves something fun, like – baseball! Which works out perfectly since this month’s movie is Field of Dreams!

Like so many other things in 2020, baseball is going to look a little different, but at least there will be some baseball – the MLB just announced a shortened, 60 game season scheduled to begin at the end of this month. And, at least at the time of this writing, the special game between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees will probably still be held at in Dyersville, Iowa on the field made famous by the film Field of Dreams . That could change of course, but right now things are looking up, baseball-wise!

So what should you read to get you back in the baseball mode? There actually a lot of great books, fiction and non-fiction, that have been inspired by this most American of past times. You could also read something about Iowa, or father-son relationships or any sports-centric book – it’s your choice. Here I’ve listed some baseball favorites – clicking on the title will take you to our catalog where you’ll find a brief description and the location of the book. Remember, we’re open to the public again so you can stop by and pick up a book, or you can take advantage of curbside pick-up at Main and Eastern, or our drive-up window at Fairmount!

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

The Natural by Bernard Malamud

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

The Cactus League by Emily Nemens

Blockade Billy by Stephen King

There are also lots of non-fiction about baseball from famous players like Ernie Banks and Babe Ruth, to great games and rivalries, to the science and statistics that make the game tick. Check out the 796.357 Dewey number for a wide range of choices.

I’m planning to read Calico Joe by John Grisham which a baseball- and Grisham-loving fan told me was well worth reading.

Now, what about you, what will you be reading this month?

Online Reading Challenge – Wrap-Up

Hello Challenge Readers!

So, it’s been another difficult month in the year 2020. I know many of us – myself included – are taking a hard look at long-held beliefs and starting the ongoing work of educating ourselves. It may seem overwhelming, but it’s minor compared what too many of our citizens have suffered. Reading and comprehension are more important than ever – reading can be a source of education, a way to get a glimpse of another person’s life and it can be a comfort. I hope that this month you were able to find exactly what you needed, including for our monthly Reading Challenge!

I read Lawyer for the Cat by Lee Robinson, a lighter than air mystery about a cat that has inherited a large plantation house and a fortune.  Attorney Sally Baynard is assigned to choose a caretaker for the cat (and therefore live in the house and earn a substantial salary) from the three candidates listed in the will of the cat’s former owner.

Beatrice the cat is quite self-contained and has strong opinions about who she likes and who she won’t tolerate. Sally has to juggle finding the right fit for Beatrice (and the estate) while juggling a Mother with advancing Alzheimer’s, her regular load of Family Law cases and a boyfriend that is pushing for more of her attention. Not all of the candidates in the will seem above-board either – there seems to ulterior motives as some people are more interested on getting their hands on the estate than taking care of Beatrice.

Overall, this was an interesting mystery. Sally is a woman who has found success in the old boys club of Southern politics and law. I did worry some about how casually she handled Beatrice – at one point losing her altogether! – but you can be assured that Beatrice comes out with the best possible results. Interesting and fun, but very light.

What did you read this month? Let us know in the comments!

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

What do you do when your life collapses around you and the future you had planned on is gone? How do you move beyond the pain, who do you lean on for support and comfort? And what if there was an alternative – would you grab it, no matter the cost? These questions and more and explored in the compelling book The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver.

Lydia and Freddie have been a couple since they met when they were 14. Their lives, past and present, are intertwined and their future planned with bright promise. All of that comes to an abrupt  end when, on Lydia’s birthday, just a few months before they were to be married, Freddie dies in a car accident.

Torn apart by her grief and her pain and unable to sleep at night, Lydia starts taking sleeping pills prescribed by her doctor. Every time she uses one of the pills, she magically slips into an alternate universe where Freddie is still alive, their future is proceeding as planned and Lydia is blissfully happy again. Waking up returns her to the world where Freddie has died and her crippling grief so the pills quickly become a crutch, allowing her to visit a world that doesn’t exist.

Pretty soon it becomes evident that not everything is perfect in this alternate universe, and it becomes increasingly difficult for Lydia to sustain both narratives. But how can she choose between the love of her life and moving on without Freddie?

This is an intriguing look at the process of working through grief and how grieving doesn’t follow a straight path or can be predicted by a timeline. It’s also about learning to stand on your own, how to move on while still honoring what has been lost, about the love and support of family and friends and about how you are responsible for your own happiness.

This may sound like a real downer of a book, but it has lots of funny moments – it’s British so the humor is very dry and Lydia’s circle of friends aren’t afraid to both poke her and hold her up. While it’s about grief, it’s also about love and joy and living your best life on your own terms.

 

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check-In

Hello Challengers!

Half way through June and summer is really heating up. Have you found your 12 Angry Men inspired book yet? Maybe you’d prefer spending some time in the air conditioning, watching a movie or tv show. There are plenty to choose from!

Dark Waters with Mark Ruffalo, based on a true story about an attorney that takes on a large corporation whose carelessness is causing countless deaths.

Mr Civil Rights, a documentary about Thurgood Marshall and his triumph in the Brown v. the Board of Education case which led to the desegregation of schools.

Anatomy of a Murder, a classic starring Jimmy Stewart about the trial of a husband accused of murdering his wife’s rapist.

Philadelphia with Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks covering a case that battles against AIDS discrimination.

As for television shows, there are almost too many to mention, from the classic Perry Mason to LA Law, Boston Legal, J.A.G., The Good Fight, Suits, Law and Order or one it’s many off-shoots, The Good Wife and Better Call Saul, you’re sure to find something that appeals to you.

 

Never Stop Learning

One of the ways we can cope with difficult times in a positive and constructive manner is to educate ourselves. Take the time and effort to seek out the facts. It’s not easy and it’s not comfortable and for most of us (myself included) it’s a continual learning experience. As citizens – of this city, this state, this country, this world – it’s our job to do this.

Here are some resources from the library and some links that can help.

Stamped: Racism, Anti-racism and You by Jason Reynolds (also available on Overdrive)

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Brown

Just Mercy: a Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (also available on Overdrive)

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

Please note that there are waiting lists on most of these titles. The Library is working on adding more copies both in hard copy and e-book form. Please place a reserve on any you find interesting and we’ll get a copy to you asap!

Online Reading Challenge – June

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

Welcome to our June Reading Challenge! This month our inspirational film is: 12 Angry Men

Although it has been remade several times, the most famous version of 12 Angry Men is probably the 1957 film starring Henry Fonda. A jury of 12 men are tasked with deciding the fate of a man accused of murder. Eleven of them are ready to convict, but one man has serious doubts and stands resolute that the defendant is innocent. It is a powerful exploration of values and morals, and the ability of one person to affect change.

This month, look for books that feature lawyers and/or courtroom dramas. That’s a pretty big field to choose from, as lawyers and the law have long been popular. The classic, and one of the best, is of course To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee which fits into our theme perfectly – the courage of one person standing against popular opinion in search of justice. A modern classic would be Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent, a book that is not only excellent, but is in part what started the recent popularity of lawyer-based novels.

There are lots of authors who write largely about the law including the very popular John Grisham (The Firm), Michael Connelly (The Lincoln Lawyer), Lisa Scottoline (Mistaken Identity), Phillip Margolin, Steve Martini, Marcia Clark, Margaret Maron, Linda Fairstein, Paul Levine and many more.

Of course, you can go with non-fiction as well. Historic books such as an exploration of Abraham Lincoln as a lawyer (Lincoln’s Last Trial by Don Abrams), a closer look at the Supreme Court in The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin or examine the current state of the American legal system in books like Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.

I am planning on reading A Lawyer for the Cat by Lee Robinson. According to the description and reviews, it’s supposed to be humorous without being cute-sy, realistic and suspenseful. I am looking forward to reading something on the lighter side!

Usually at this point I encourage you to stop by one of our Davenport Library locations and browse our displays, but because of the current need to maintain social distancing, I’m going to urge you to place books on hold and take advantage of our curbside pick up at Main and Eastern and our drive up window at Fairmount. To help you get some book ideas, simply go to the catalog and type in “lawyers fiction” in the keyword search. You can put a hold on the book you’re interested in right from your computer, or give us a call at the Library and one of our staff will be happy to assist you.