Online Reading Challenge – March

Fellow Readers! Welcome to the March edition of the Online Reading Challenge. This month our inspiration film is: The Silence of the Lambs!

Urk. What was I thinking when I choose this film? I am not a fan of serial killers, which, ok, is kind of a silly statement since I imagine most people don’t really want to meet one face-to-face. [Side note: There’s a fascinating anecdote in the excellent book The Library Book by Susan Orlean where she interviews a reference librarian who refers to a patron he had helped a few times. Turns out the patron was Richard Ramirez better known as The Night Stalker who terrorized Los Angeles in 1985. Way to close for comfort!] However, reading about serial killers is a bit safer and delving into the mind/motivations of a murderer can be fascinating.

For The Silence of the Lambs, a film about an especially notorious serial killer helping the FBI hunt down another notorious serial killer and starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, you can choose to read about serial killers, the FBI, even ordinary garden-variety murderers. If you’d really like to push the limits, you could even choose to read about cannibalism (such as Alive by Piers Paul Read or anything about the Donner Party) Just, no fava beans please!

If you’re interested in reading about actual serial killers, head for the 364.1523 Dewey area of the library. You’ll find lots of true crime books including The Devil in the White City by Eric Larsen about the hunt for a serial killer during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi about the Charles Manson killings in California. For a look at the beginnings of the FBI reach for Killers of the Osage Moon by David Grann, the story of the murders of members of the Osage Tribe in 1920s Oklahoma.

Some fiction books worth considering include The Perfect Husband by Lisa Gardener, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, The Alienist by Caleb Carr and, of course, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.

Several mystery series deal with the FBI and/or serial killers including Catherine Coulter’s FBI Thrillers and Brit in the FBI series, Allison Brennan’s Lucy Kincaid series and Max Revere novels, P.J. Tracy’s Monkeewrench series and Jeffry Lindsay’s Dexter series (from the point-of-view of the serial killer)

As always, stop by any of the three Davenport Library locations for displays with lots more title suggestions!

I’m going to read a plain-old garden-variety murder mystery, Louise Penny’s A Better Man from her Chief Inspector Gamache series. I haven’t read any Louise Penny books, but know she has lots of fans and lots of excellent reviews. I’m looking forward to getting started!

Now, what about you? What will you be reading in March?

Bad Girls from History: Wicked or Misunderstood by Dee Gordon

Guest post by Laura

This compilation of notorious female historical figures in Bad Girls from History is intriguing. Some are so infamous they are still well-known today, such as Bonnie Parker of Bonnie and Clyde, but most were new to me. The chapters are divided into “Courtesans and Mistresses,” “Madams, Prostitutes and Adulterers,” “Serial Killers,” “Gangsters, Thieves and Con-Artists,” and “The Rebel Collection.” It was fascinating to note how many of the ladies in the murderous category had life insurance policy payouts as their motive! Apparently there weren’t any fraud divisions at insurance agencies back then?

I was in awe of some of the rebellious ladies such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Grace O’Malley, and Fanny Campbell. Each of these defied conventions of the time and led the lives they wanted. I wish I could have known more about the lady pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read but perhaps there are scant historical records.

As I began reading each biography in the first chapter, I noticed similarities between them. It became clear that in the paternalistic systems prevalent in most societies for millennia, women had fewer rights and opportunities to earn a decent living than men. It was a blessing to be born beautiful and it would appear beauty was one of the few marketable and profitable characteristics one could bank on. So many women in this chapter became mistresses or courtesans to men of high society as the most advantageous route to earn a living. It also became clear that child marriages as well as lack of government oversight of children led to abuse, child-trafficking, and even murder.

Since this writer is British, I found a few phrases and references unfamiliar but overall I enjoyed the book. Gordon did an excellent job with her extensive research and the result is an interesting peek into the lives of misbehaving (Western) women throughout history.