Online Reading Challenge – February

Welcome Readers!

This month the Online Reading Challenge travels back in time to the 1900s & 1910s. Our Main title for February is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Here’s a quick summary from the publisher:

From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior—such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce—no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama. By turns overwhelming, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the Nolans’ daily experiences are raw with honestly and tenderly threaded with family connectedness.

Betty Smith has, in the pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, captured the joys of humble Williamsburg life—from “junk day” on Saturdays, when the children traded their weekly take for pennies, to the special excitement of holidays, bringing cause for celebration and revelry. Smith has created a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as deeply resonant moments of universal experience. Here is an American classic that “cuts right to the heart of life,” hails the New York Times. “If you miss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, you will deny yourself a rich experience.” – HarperCollins

Looking for some other books set in the 1900s & 1910s? Try any of the following:

As always, check each of our locations for displays with lots more titles to choose from!

Online Reading Challenge – January Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

How did your reading go this month? Did you read something set in the 1800s that you enjoyed? Share in the comments!

I read our main title: Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge.

Libertie follows the life of Libertie Sampson from the time she was a young child to when she is a grown woman. Libertie’s mother is Dr. Sampson, a woman raising her daughter by herself in a free Black community in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn. Dr. Sampson is a practicing physician and has visions of the two working together in the future. She plans for Libertie to go to medical school and then practicing together in their small community. As Libertie grows older however, she strains at the expectations her mother has placed on her. Libertie would rather do something with music over science, but still yearns to live an independent life like her mother. One major issue is Libertie is much darker than her light-skinned mother, who occasionally passes as white. Her future changes when she accepts a young man from Haiti’s marriage proposal. He promises that she will be his equal, but after the two arrive in Cuba, she discovers that is not the case. Libertie has to decide what she is willing to give up and what freedom really means to her.

The imagery in this book was gorgeous. I found myself wishing to transport myself to Haiti with Libertie and to visit Reconstruction-era Brooklyn with her mother. The descriptions of the scenery, the people, and the struggle for freedom pulled at my heart strings as readers watch lives change throughout the course of the novel.

This book is inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the state of New York, Dr. Susan Smith McKinney-Steward, and her daughter. Dr. McKinney-Steward was the third African American woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. As I was reading, I found myself wishing that this book focused less on Libertie and more on her mother. I wanted to love this title more than I actually did. The premise lured me in, but instead of focusing on Dr. Sampson, we instead focused on Libertie, who, in my mind, had few redeeming qualities.

I hope you enjoyed traveling to the 1800s with me! Next month, we are heading to the 1900s & 1910s.

Online Reading Challenge – January

Welcome Readers!

It’s time for a new Online Reading Challenge! In 2024, we will be heading to different decades every month. This month the Online Reading Challenge travels to the 1800s. Our Main title for January is Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge. Here’s a quick summary from the publisher:

The critically acclaimed and Whiting Award–winning author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman returns with Libertie, an unforgettable story about one young Black girl’s attempt to find a place where she can be fully, and only, herself.

Coming of age in a free Black community in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson is all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, has a vision for their future together: Libertie is to go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else—is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her light-skinned mother, Libertie will not be able to pass for white. When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it—for herself and for generations to come.

Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s new and immersive novel will resonate with readers eager to understand our present through a deep, moving, and lyrical dive into our past.

This title is also available in large print and as a Libby eBook.

Looking for some other books set in the 1800s? Try any of the following.

As always, check each of our locations for displays with lots more titles to choose from!

Coming Soon! Online Reading Challenge 2024!

Welcome to the 2024 Online Reading Challenge!

Get ready for our ninth year of reading recommendations with our super-casual, low-stress reading club! It is run online through the Davenport Library’s reference blog Info Café and, new in 2024, you can participate in the Online Reading Challenge through the Beanstack app!

For anyone who doesn’t know (or remember!) the Online Reading Challenge is run through the Info Cafe blog and now Beanstack! Each month we read books centered around a theme. Each year is a little different, but the unchanging main principle of this book club is: No Pressure! There is no sign-up, no meetings to attend (although you’re welcome to add any comments to the blog posts), no shame in not finishing a book, or skipping a month (or two). You can read one of the suggested titles or something different or none at all! Read at your own pace, read what interests you, try something out of your usual reading zone or stick with what you like best. In other words, create a personalized book club with a bit of encouragement from the Reading Challenge!

Our theme for 2024 is Decades!

Each month we will be traveling to a different decade and highlighting a main title set in that decade. Besides the main title, we’ll have suggestions for books set in the same decade as well as many more on display at each of our buildings. You can choose to read the main book or alternate titles or even something else completely! As always, we’ll have an introductory blog post at the beginning of the month, and a wrap-up at the end. At the end of the month I’ll write about the main title, pose some questions, and invite you to comment your observations about the title you read.

Of course, as always, you may do as you please – there are no Library Police! If you wish to skip a month or read more than one book in that month or read a book from a different month, go for it! No one will drag you off to Library Jail if you choose your own path!

The 2024 Online Reading Challenge begins on Wednesday, January 3rd. Be sure to follow the Info Café reference blog or Beanstack for more information and updates!