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?


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!

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.


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.

Online Reading Challenge – Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Readers!

How did your “spy reading” go this month? Did you read something that kept your interest during this difficult and confusing time?

I read Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon, a fictionalized account about a real person. Well, I meant to read this book this month, but, sadly, it didn’t happen. I blame the pandemic as I found myself constantly distracted. They claim that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in isolation during the Black Plague, but he didn’t have 24/7 news or social media to block out! Here’s to hoping my reading mojo comes back soon!

I did get started on Code Name Helene and it certainly has potential. So here’s a quick overview of what it’s about and my initial impressions.

Nancy Wake left Australia in the 1930s as a young woman, seeking adventure. She traveled throughout Europe as a journalist and socialite, making contacts with the wealthy and the powerful. She was free-spirited, independent and stubborn, walking into danger without hesitation. As the Nazi’s gain power in Germany, she struggles to raise the alarm but finds that many people, such as her editor, don’t want to hear what she is telling them. Unable to stand aside and do nothing, Nancy becomes a spy for the Allies. Known for her signature red lipstick, ferocious wit and her fearlessness, Nancy eventually becomes one of the most powerful leaders of the French Resistance, frequently putting herself and her loved ones in danger.

The story jumps across timelines, from the late 1930s to the end of World War II and from the point-of-view of several characters. I often enjoy this style of storytelling, feeling that it gives a more complete view of what happened and the results and consequences. However, I was having more trouble keeping track of characters, locations and dates with this book – perhaps it was my pandemic-induced distraction, but I found it hard to really fall into the world of this novel.

Nevertheless, Code Name Helene has great potential as a superior spy novel with it’s brave heroine set during one of the pivotal periods of history.

Now it’s your turn. What did you read this month? Tell us in the comments!

Online Reading Challenge – Mid Month Check-in

Hello Readers!

How is your reading going so far this month? It’s a crazy time so you wouldn’t be blamed if your usual reading habits have veered off course. Maybe a movie or documentary would appeal to you? Here are some to look for that center on spies, real and imagined.

Since access to the library and our collections is still limited, let’s started with a couple of free online services that we offer! First up is Acorn TV which is a treasure trove of British and foreign television series and films. Here you’ll find the documentary David Janson’s Secret Service that examines the real-life versions of some of Ian Fleming’s most iconic characters – “M”, “Q” and James Bond himself. Another documentary available on Acorn TV is The Spy Who Went Into the Cold  about the devastating betrayal of top MI-6 official Kim Philby and his defection to the USSR in 1963.

A service just added to the Library’s digital content line-up is IndieFlix  an eclectic mix of independent shorts, documentaries and feature films. You’ll find lots of classics including the brilliant Notorious staring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman about a woman asked to spy on a group of Nazi’s living in South America. Or check out British Intelligence starring Boris Karloff about German spies placed in the home of a high-ranking British official during World War I.

At this time the Library is planning on reopening the drive-up window at Fairmount beginning on May 18. There will be strict guidelines to follow to protect both patrons and staff, but you should be able to start picking up reserves again. Fill your “spy” section of the Online Reading Club with a James Bond film like Skyfall or something humorous like The Kingsmen or The Spy Who Dumped Me. If you’re in the mood for bingeing a television series, try Turn: Washington’s Spies about spies during the Revolutionary War or The Americans about Russian double agents living in the United States.

Online Reading Challenge – May

Here we go, continuing with the Online Reading Challenge! This month our inspiration film is: Casino Royale!

That’s right – Bond, James Bond. Or anything about spies, real or imagined. Usually seen as super-cool and very secretive, they have been fodder for lots of great stories. Here are some titles and authors to get you started.

John le Carre has set the standard for writing excellent, intriguing spy stories. His most well-known book, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, considered a masterpiece, delves into the intricate, complicated world of spycraft at the height of the Cold War. Others by le Carre to read include Smiley’s People, Agent Running the in Field, The Constant Gardener and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

Other authors that deliver lots of action and intrigue include the Jack Ryan series by Tom Clancy (starting with The Hunt for Red October taking place on nuclear submarine), The Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum (the first being The Bourne Identity where a CIA agent has lost of his memory).

The Cold War provided a huge amount of material for spy novels, what with the paranoia and secrecy and fear of that time, but wars have also been fertile ground. Ken Follet’s Eye of the Needle, about a German spy in World War II, is a favorite of many. Or read the excellent The Alice Network by Kate Quinn that details the exploits and sacrifices of women spies in World War I.

Other authors to consider include Alan Furst, Fredrick Forsyth, Vince Flynn and Daniel Silva. And, oh yes, Ian Fleming.

I am planning on reading Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon, based on the real-life story of Nancy Wake, a socialite who spied on the Nazi’s and became a deadly member of the French Resistance.

As of this writing, the library is still closed to the public. When we open again (soon, I hope!) there will be displays at each building with lots of titles to choose from. Also, be sure to look at our collection of e-books with Overdrive. You’ll find lots of titles about spies – simply type “spy novels” or “spies” in the search bar on Overdrive!