Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hey Readers! How’s your February reading? Need a few more suggestions? Here are some movies that would count for our month of Gone with the Wind.

Lincoln with a virtuoso, Oscar winning performance from Daniel Day Lewis, this movie follows an Abraham Lincoln worn down by the war as he works to ensure the passage of the 13th Amendment near the end of the Civil War.

Cold Mountain, another Oscar winning film (for Best Supporting Actress Rene Zellwinger), brings to life Charles Fraizer’s novel of a Confederate soldier who deserts and tries to return to his young wife. Also starring Jude Law and Nicole Kidman.

Mercy Street, a television series that originally aired on PBS, is set in 1862 in Alexandria, Virginia which is located near the border between North and South. The Union has taken over a hotel owned by Southern sympathizers and have made it into a Union Army hospital.

Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War brought visual storytelling to a whole new level when it aired on PBS. More than a recounting of battles, it delves into the lives of those involved, from the Generals to the ordinary soldier to those left at home.

And of course, there’s Gone with the Wind our inspiration for the month and well worth watching (or re-watching!)

 

Online Reading Challenge – February

Hello Challenge Readers! Welcome to February!

This month our film is a favorite of many – Gone with the Wind starring Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh. Set in the deep South before, during and after the Civil War, it is a triumph of storytelling and cinematic excellence (that famous burning of Atlanta scene is not easily forgotten). The dashing hero, the vain heroine, the elegance of plantation life (possible only with the enslavement of people), the horror of battle and the struggle to rebuild highlights one of the most important time periods of American history.

There are a lot of directions you can go when looking for a book related to this film. You can go straight to the heart and read Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind which stands as an excellent choice on it’s own. There are also a lot of books about the making of the film itself which was nearly as dramatic as the movie!

A lot of popular books have been written about the Civil War including classics like Little Women by Louisa Alcott and The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. Anything about Abraham Lincoln – and there are lots of books about Lincoln – would be appropriate. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier is an award-winning novel about a soldier that goes AWOL and begins the long walk home while Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini looks at the controversial First Lady. For an in-depth description of battles turn to Shelby Foote (Shiloh) or Jeff Shaara’s Civil War series which includes The Killer Angels.

We cannot not overlook the terrible price paid by millions – the enslavement of African Americans. For a glimpse of slavery and its long lasting consequences try Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup or go for a classic such as There Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston or Roots by Alex Haley. Several recent titles such as Underground by Colson Whitehead and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi would be excellent choices as well as any title by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, especially Beloved.

Be sure to stop in at any of the Davenport Library locations and check out the Online Reading Challenge display where we’ll have these titles and lots more for you to choose from.

I’m going to be reading The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, a fictionalized account of abolitionist and member of the woman’s suffrage movement Sarah Grimke and her slave Hettie and their struggles during the Civil War era. It promises to be an excellent book.

What about you? What are you planning to read this month?

 

Online Reading Challenge – January Finish

Hello Fellow Readers!

We’ve reached the end of January and the finish of our first month of the 2020 Online Reading Challenge. How was your reading month? Were you able to find a good book or watch a movie somehow related to our theme of Casablanca?

I had an very good January, reading the excellent The Last Train to London by Meg Clayton, a remarkable story of courage and determination during the dark times just before and during the early years of World War II.

The book opens in the late 1930s when Hitler’s rise to power is throwing a dark cloud over Europe. The world watches in disbelief as threats against Jews grow but Truss Wijsmuller, a Dutch woman, is not standing by; she begins escorting Jewish children out of Austria to safety at great danger to herself. Most of the children are orphans, but as conditions worsen, parents begin making the heartrending decision to send their children away, desperate to protect them.

At first the Jews of Vienna believe they are safe – after all they have been loyal Austrians for generations and many no longer practice the Jewish faith. Vienna has long been a center of art and sophistication, Mozart and opera – surely nothing bad will happen here. However, within days of Anschluss (the annexation of Austria by Germany), the rights of Jewish citizens have been stripped, their property and businesses seized and families forced from their homes.

The Last Train to London depicts real events, part of the Kindertransport rescue that saved nearly 10,000 children’t from Nazi-occupied Europe. Truus Wijsmuller was a real person, known to the children as Tante Truus, kind and warm-hearted but with the courage and determination to confront Adolf Eichmann (who was the creator of the “Jewish solution” that sent millions to their death) and insist that he allow 600 children to leave and immigrate to England. Clayton personalizes the novel by telling a story of two young adults caught up in the chaos and despair – Stephan, son of a wealthy Jewish businessman and Zofie, the daughter of an anit-Nazi journalist. Their fate becomes entwined with Tante Truus and a nearly impossible dream to escape. This is a white-knuckle, can’t-put-down novel of both the horrors humans are capable of, and of the great kindness and compassion of ordinary people. Highly recommended.

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

 

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello Challengers!

Just checking in halfway through the month to see how things are going for you. Have you been able to find a book you want to read? There are so many books set during World War II, it can be hard to pick one!

If you’re still looking, be sure to check the displays at each Davenport library location. And don’t forget about e-books – check our collection on the Overdrive or Libby app to see if a title you want to read is available to read on your Kindle or tablet (check with any librarian at the library if you need help getting started!)

Of course, sometimes the culprit is time – too many other obligations and distractions! In that case, maybe a movie would be a better idea. Here’s a few ideas.

Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds follows the convoluted journey of one of Gustav Klimt’s most famous paintings, from it’s creation, to it’s seizure by the Nazi’s to it’s return to it’s rightful home.

The Courageous Heart of Irene Sendler – Starring Anna Paquin true story of a Polish social worker that was able to smuggle Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto.

Dunkirk with Tom Hardy, Harry Styles and Kenneth Branagh recreates the tense and daring rescue of thousands of Allied soldiers stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk, France.

Saving Private Ryan starring Tom Hanks. From the terrifying Allied invasion of Normandy to the dangerous, war-torn villages of France and Germany, eight soldiers are sent to bring home one.

The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightly is the fascinating story behind the Enigma machine and how the English broke the German’s secret code, saving thousands of lives.

Band of Brothers, a ten-part HBO mini-series about ‘Easy Company’ of the US Army who fought in several major battles including D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge and captured Hitler’s Eagles Nest while suffering major casualties.

And, of course, Casablanca. If you’ve never seen this classic, do yourself a favor and watch it now.

That’s just a small sampling. I’ve concentrated (both with movies and books) on the war in Europe, but there are many more set in the Pacific Theater. As always, read what interests you!

Happy reading (or watching!)

Online Reading Challenge 2020 Begins Today!

Hello Challengers!

It’s a New Year and a New Online Reading Challenge! Hurrah! Unlike those pesky New Year’s Resolutions that try to “fix” you and are usually abandoned within a few days, the Online Reading Challenge is all about having fun and trying something new with no pressure. Read as much or as little as you like, whenever you like. And you get to choose what to read from a list of suggestions – no more getting stuck using your precious reading time on a book you really don’t want to read!

Our 2020 theme is “From Film to Book”. We’re going to take iconic films (you’re probably familiar with the basic story even if you’ve never seen the film) and read books that have a similar setting or time period or theme.  At the beginning of each month I’ll talk about the film a bit and then list some suggested titles. There will be displays at each Davenport Library location with more ideas, plus you’ll want to stop in and pick up a Online Reading Challenge book log/bookmark which lists the film for each month and even has room to list the books you read!

OK – time to get started! Our first film is Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  Surely everyone is familiar with this film – the love triangle, the bar, the famous song, the final scenes at the airport.  Set in 1942 in Casablanca, a city teeming with refugees desperate to escape Nazi-occupied Europe, it embodies loyalty, sacrifice, friendship, patriotism and love.

There are a couple of different routes you can take when looking for this month’s book. World War II has long been a very popular subject for books and there is no shortage of excellent titles both in fiction and non-fiction. You could also read something set in Morocco (although there aren’t many to choose from), stories about refugees or the French Resistance or any wartime romance. And any book set during World War II will qualify (remember – there are no Library Police!)

I’ve always been interested in World War II and have read a lot set in that time period. A few of my personal favorites include:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr  (blog post)

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (blog post)

The Huntress by Kate Quinn (blog post)

City of Thieves by David Benioff (blog post)

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (blog post)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (blog post)

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean (blog post)

A Thread of Grace by Mary Russell (blog post)

Check the displays at each of the Davenport library locations for lots more titles!

I’m planning on reading The Last Train to London by Meg Clayton. It’s fiction based on a true story about a woman in The Netherlands helping Jewish children in Europe escape to England. Can’t wait to get started!

Now, what about you? Will you be joining us in this year’s Reading Challenge? What do you plan to read in January?

 

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – December

Here we go Challenge Readers! It’s the final month of the 2019 Online Reading Challenge! Are you ready for a strong finish to the year?

I think this month will be fun. And kind of a free-for-all because the topic is Friends and Family and well, that means the number of books that would qualify is nearly unlimited. Whether you define family as blood relations, step-, blended or the family you choose, these people are important and influence your life past, present and future. Here are a few titles to get you started thinking about what to read.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – A placid, planned neighborhood in suburban Cleveland is disrupted and changed forever when an enigmatic single mother and her daughter move in, drawing the other families to them and sparking controversy and conflict.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – A Vietnam War vet moves his family to Alaska where he hopes the wide open spaces will calm his increasingly erratic behavior. Woefully unprepared for an Alaskan winter, the family soon learns that the real danger is from within.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – Falling under the category of “the family you choose” this lovely book shows how an oddball collection of neighbors from wildly varying backgrounds come together to support and celebrate each other through the multiple milestones of life. Highly recommended.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – Twin brothers who are orphaned at birth when their mother dies and their father abandons them, Marion and Shiva share a love of medicine but their love for the same woman tears them apart. When the past threatens Marion, he must turn to the father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – be sure to check the displays at each of the Davenport Library locations for lots more choices!

I’m planning on reading The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. This is an older book that is listed as a favorite by many (I know someone who re-reads it every year!) Set in Cornwall, England, it is described as “a sweeping family drama” that centers around the fate of a beloved painting. I hope it lives up to all the great reviews!

Now it’s your turn – what will you be reading this month?

 

Online Reading Challenge – November Wrap-Up

Hello Readers!

How did your November reading go? Did you find a great book to read or movie to watch?

I struggled a bit this month. “Education” turned out to be a tougher subject to find interesting books than I had expected. That’s not to say there aren’t any books worth reading, just that I had trouble finding one that I wanted to read. I ended up choosing Looking for Alaska by John Green and, what can I say, I had some issues with it.

Looking for Alaska takes place in an exclusive boarding school in Alabama. Miles has never quite fit in at public school back home in Florida (his favorite hobby is collecting the last words of famous people), so he transfers to Culver Creek to seek “the great perhaps”. What he finds there is a collection of eccentric and independent thinkers that push his boundaries and sometimes endanger his life. Alaska Young – brilliant, beautiful, free-spirited, troubled – becomes the center of his world and her moods and flights of fancy dictate how Miles and the circle of friends around Alaska will experience each day. When tragedy strikes the consequences are far reaching and long lasting.

I think I may be too old and too cynical to have really enjoyed this book. It reminds me a bit of the experience of reading Catcher in the Rye; if you read it at the right point in your life, it’s mind blowing. If you read it too late, it seems self-indulgent and shallow. I wouldn’t call Looking for Alaska either self-indulgent or shallow (it deals with serious issues teens face today), but I had a hard time relating to the teens. Of course, I was never part of a “cool crowd” (more the “super-quiet-book-nerd never-do-anything-against-the-rules” crowd!) I found much of their behavior to be dangerous and was disturbed by their disregard for the privileges they had access to. Of course, there were several serious, underlying issues that at least in part explained their behavior but mostly I wanted to shake them and tell them to stop making stupid choices. (It’s tough to get old!!)

The writing, as to be expected from John Green, was beautiful and kept me reading when I might have given up. He can turn a phrase or describe an emotion with such care and skill with no extraneous clutter that it’s breathtaking. I found myself skimming chunks of the book but also repeatedly diving into passages that I would re-read again and again. My recommendation is to go read The Fault in Our Stars, also by John Green, and pass on Looking for Alaska, but your mileage my vary.

What about you? What was your November reading experience like?

Online Reading Club – Mid-Month Check In

Hello Readers!

How is your reading going this month? Have you found something good, or are you still searching? If you’re short on time, here are a couple of movie suggestions that fit into our Education theme!

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark with Harrison Ford and Karen Allen. Remember? Indiana is a professor of archaeology! Granted, there aren’t a lot of classroom/professor scenes but nevertheless, beyond the bullwhip and fedora and deathly fear of snakes, he was a teacher. It does beg the question though – how come none of my college professors looked like Harrison Ford?

Dead Poet’s Society with Robin Williams. When a new English professor shakes up the established teaching curriculum at a strict boarding school he changes the lives of his students forever. A homage to the beloved teachers that do so much to inspire and motivate us.

Mr Hollands Opus starring Richard Dreyfuss. A frustrated composer learns that his true calling is teaching others and his legacy becomes not a piece of music but the generations of students he has taught.

Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon. Blonde and beautiful does not equal dumb and unmotivated. When El is dumped by her boyfriend, she follows him to law school where she finds out that she has a brilliant legal mind and that she doesn’t need a loser boyfriend to succeed. Fun and light.

Online Reading Challenge – November

Readers! It’s November! That means it’s time for our new topic for the Online Reading Challenge and this month it’s – Education!

Education is a topic that affects all of us, whether we barely made it through high school or have several advanced degrees. Plus, I’m a big believer in “never stop learning” – exploring and finding out about new interests and topics should never stop.

When I was putting together this month’s list of books, I found a lot fewer books on education and schooling than I expected, so I’ve supplemented with books about books (some of which you may remember from our month of Reading!) Of course, you’re free to read whatever you’d like. Maybe you’ll picked up a new hobby and would like to learn more about it or you’re suddenly fascinated with the economic growth of Iceland. Dive in! Enjoy! Here are a few more standard titles to get you started.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I loved this book, not only for the setting (Paris!) but for the way Anna grew from a self-conscious, frightened girl into a confident young woman. When her parents send her to Paris for her final year of high school, Anna is angry and defiant but gradually her reluctance changes to acceptance and happiness as she learns how to rely on herself. A fun and charming book.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. One small miscalculation, wholly accidental and unintentional, changes the lives of two college baseball players and those around them forever. Lots of baseball and heartbreak.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Richardson. Based on true stories, this book follows Cussy Mary Carter as she travels by horseback in the Appalachian Mountains delivering books to isolated farms on her route during the Great Depression. She encounters danger (not everyone approves of the books she delivers), prejudice (Cussy’s unusual skin color causes many to fear and shun her) and hazardous conditions but remains resolute. Cussy is a great character – brave, determined and moral.

I’m planning on reading Looking for Alaska by John Green which takes place at a prep school in Alabama. It is described as wrenching and joyful coming-of-age story. As a huge fan of Green’s A Fault in Their Stars, I have high hopes for this one!

Now it’s your turn. What will read in November?

 

Online Reading Challenge – October Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Reading Fans!

How did your October Challenge reading go this month? The topic of Nature gave us a lot of options – I hope you found one you liked!

I had a good month; I read (and am now hooked on) the Joe Pickett mystery series by C.J. Box. I’ve actually read several in the series (there are 19 so far with number 20 coming out early next year), but I’ll just talk about the first in the series, Open Season.

Joe Pickett is the new game warden in Twelve Sleep, Wyoming near the Bighorn Mountains. It’s beautiful country, teeming with wildlife and natural resources, but it also seems to attract some people who prefer to live outside the law. Unlike his predecessor, Joe refuses to look the other way or accept bribes and that makes him unpopular with the hunters and fishermen who don’t follow the rules. When two outfitters are murdered and a third man dies in Joe’s backyard, the local sheriff decides that the third man killed the first two, them committed suicide and declares the case closed.

However, this just doesn’t add up for Joe and he begins poking around, looking for clues. The secrets and conspiracies he begins to unravel could be catastrophic for some – including himself and his family. Box navigates the various political issues that are part of modern Wyoming (economic, ecological, environmental) with a delicate touch, showing that each viewpoint has valid concerns, but also has radicals that won’t allow compromise. Joe is a man of few words and often gets himself in trouble by his refusal to back down or look away. He adores his wife and daughters and loves the beauty and wildness of the countryside. He isn’t bigger-than-life heroic, but is determined and observant and able to find solutions that others don’t – or won’t – see.

I especially enjoyed Box’s writing style. Descriptive without being flowery, the harsh but beautiful landscape, unforgiving weather and wildlife of Wyoming comes to life vividly – you can almost smell the sagebrush or see the flow of a pronghorn herd racing across the plateau. This ability to put the reader into the physical story reminds me a lot of Tony Hillerman and his mysteries set in the Southwest. I highly recommend the Joe Pickett mystery series – but be careful, you’ll likely get hooked!

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