Devil in the White City—the fairest of fairs

Sunday, 25 October 2009 09:38

Were you like me, wondering what the World’s Fair looked like in Erik Larson’s book?  The book’s photos didn’t help much. Take heart:  Below is a photo that appeared in today’s New York Times, front page of the “Week in Review” section.  Now we can see what all the fuss was about!

worlds-fair

 

 

 

 

Book Club Blues—members who don’t read the book

Friday, 23 October 2009 15:40

bcblues-4I get some interesting emails—many are about problems a lot of book clubs face.  Here’s one I got recently:

What do you do with members who haven’t read the book…but who still love to talk and talk as if they have? Should clubs have rules that say if you haven't read the book, you can't come to the meeting?

Set some guidelines at the outset
At the beginning of every book discussion, the host or discussion leader should ask if all members can agree to the following propositions:

• It is realistic—not everyone can read every book; we all have busy lives. Therefore, non-readers should always feel welcome to attend.

• As a matter of fairness—those who have read the book should get first dibs on talking about it.

•As a matter of courtesy—it’s incumbent on non-readers to LISTEN and comment briefly or rarely.

Any other ideas? Here’s the spot to share them.

 

From the mailbag—spooky novels

Sunday, 18 October 2009 10:44

halloweenOooooh...!  Halloween’s coming up. A reader asked me to come up with ideas for spooky mystery novels. The writer herself suggested Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale. Good one!

Here are some I came up with—mostly older works:

 

  • Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, 1938  (an all-time favorite)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, 1847  (the mad women in the attic)
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, 1859-60 (scrumptious)
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Conan Doyle, 1091-02 (the great Sherlock and Watson)
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, 2003 (we have guides for the complete vampire series)
  • Anything scary by Stephen King… Any particular suggestions from anyone?

If anyone has some other ideas, let us know.  We’d love to hear from you.

 

LitLovers meets The Birth of Venus

Thursday, 08 October 2009 11:31

birth-of-venus-santa-croceAh, poor me...I just returned from Italy. Life is so hard.

While there...I was reading Sarah Dunant’s The Birth of Venus—which I’d just happend to pick off the bookshelf at the house where I was staying. And here’s what happened…

Dumb me. I left my purse on the Florence Hop-On-Hop-Off tour bus, which takes you around the city. Had to sprint—shoes off—through a piazza to head it off at the next stop. No mean feet, so to speak (not so young…nor so thin). But happy ending. Got the bus, got the purse.
 
Here’s the cool part:  the piazza I cut through was in front of the Basilica di Santa Croce—the very place, in the book, where Savanarola banned women from public life  (i.e., those running barefoot around town). And I’d just read that chapter of the book the night before. Ah literature...ah, life! 

Anyway, my trip was slightly different from Liz Gilbert’s…my version was Eat, Run, Eat. Just as much fun...but no book, no movie.

 

On the air with NPR

Tuesday, 01 September 2009 11:42

radio micShort update—I’ve just received a terrific invitation to be a guest on a local NPR station in Hampton, Virginia.  We’ll be discussing book club issues—the how-tos of starting and running a club, and handling difficult issues. 

The show is HearSay with Cathy Lewis.  Maureen Corrigan will also be on, as well as Susan Coleman who is leading Virginia’s Big Read!  Call letters are WHRV 89.5 FM. 

Most of you won’t be within reach, but for those in Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina…tune in on Thursday, September 3, 2009, from 12 noon to 1pm.

 

A Day at the Races...A Night at the Library

Tuesday, 11 August 2009 11:45

library

Treat yourself to an evening out and head to your local library. After a rat-race kind of day, the peace and quiet a library offers is refreshing. 

Take a leisurely stroll through the stacks ... or browse through the periodicals … just spend some time exploring all the resources.  And if your library is like the one in my center city, there’s a cool cafe with terrific snacks, pastries, and sandwiches.

Go as a book club, or make it a couple's date—it’s an inexpensive night out. If you’re a parent, take the kids. If you’re single, where could you find a cozier spot to just hang-out?

I always come home feeling refreshed…and regenerated with new ideas for books and things to write about–like this blog post!

Oh, that’s one of the libraries I use pictured at the top—Pittsburgh’s Main Carnegie Library (Andrew was a Pittsburgh boy, just so you know).

 

800 Reading Guides on LitLovers! *

Monday, 03 August 2009 11:56

800Just to let everyone know…we’ve hit the 800 mark!  That’s the number of Reading Guides we have on our main website, LitLovers. 

We add new guides all the time, keeping track of titles book clubs want to read.  Many are added by request from our users.  So to the wonderful readers in our community of LitLovers—thank you!  With your help, we’ve built a terrific index.

I think our guides are the best—the most in-depth and thorough on the web.  Along with author bios and discussion questions, we include both negative and postive reveiws, not just promotional blurbs from publishers. If discussion questions aren’t available, we often develop our own set of  ”talking points” to help get discussions off the ground.

A search bar is next—a real grown-up search bar to make it easier to find the title and guide you’re looking for.

Anyway…1,000…here we come!

* As of this date, 11/1/2013, LitLovers has 2,200 Reading Guides!

 

 

It takes a village...of Ph.D.s

Saturday, 25 July 2009 12:01

graduation-cap2A book club member emailed me the other day to say she found a certain book's Discussion Questions just TOO HARD. So I took a look. She was right—you need a Ph.D. to answer them...in fact, a whole damn village of Ph.Ds.

What to do? Well, I decided to replace the publisher-issued questions with my own set and sent them off to her. Fortunately, that seemed to do the trick.

The whole incident brings up a point—a book's Discussions Questions can feel more like a pop quiz than a discussion starter for book clubs. They're often more threatening than helpful.

So...what do you do if you want a good discussion? Try taking a look at our other LitLovers Discussion Resources. While they're not specific to a particular title, they can help you get to the meat of a book—either fiction or nonfiction. They're more helpful than scary.

Discussion help from LitLovers

 

Re-reading—revisited

Sunday, 19 July 2009 12:26

re-reading_revisited2I did a post recently on the pleasures of re-reading. I want to add an addendum to that post (original post, June 21, 2009).

My friend, Randy Minnich, is a great re-reader…maybe obsessively so.  See what you think—he’s read Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings series . . . 20 times.  Actually, more like 22.

Of course, you’re wondering about the movie. What did he think of Peter Smith’s adaptation?  Couldn’t sit through it. It would have ruined an entire world of his private imagining, he told me. 

But wait… there’s more!  Randy’s also read Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander series, all 24 volumes . . . get this: 8 times.  (If you’re doing the math, it’s 192 books .)  Like Tolkein, this was done over a period of decades. 

Anyone top that? Randy was a research chemist. Does that explain it?  (Nah…don’t think.)

 

Guest Post with Janet Riehl—author of Sightlines

Tuesday, 07 July 2009 12:32

janet-riehl21Janet is one of those wonderful occurrences of the 21st century—an internet friend. Her blog, Riehl Life, continually demonstrates a love of life’s gifts.  And Janet has a gift of her own:  a talent for poetry and ear for music. 

I’ve invited Janet here to talk about the two projects in The Sightlines Collection: her book Sightlines: a Poet’s Diary and now a new CD, Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music, which brings in  music by her 93-year-old  father along with his family stories and banter at the recording session in his parlor.

So here’s Janet—

Molly:  Janet, tell us what inspired you to produce The Sightlines Collection. 

Janet: It covered a three-and-a-half year period. After my sister died in a car crash in August 2004, I began commuting from Northern California back to SW Illinois to our family homeplace. My father and I cared for my mother there. It was a hard time. But, out of the truth I found there, I wrote Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary.

My birthday is at the end of the year. I went into a small retreat where I received a clear leading that I needed to listen to the truth and meaning of this period in my life…and write a book to help others. When I returned to my parents’ place after this, I began the book. It flowed out in the form of story poems. This was an easy and effective way to tell my story. This form also provided a good way to make the story accessible, even to readers who weren’t keen on poetry.

After its publication, I gave talks and workshops in the Midwest and West to get the word out. Folks told me that hearing me read these poems added so much meaning to them. Several people suggested that I record them. I’d had this in mind for several years, but didn’t know how to proceed. In Spring 2008 I’d planned to visit two of my closest blogging buddies in Nashville. Suddenly, it occurred to me that the time had come for me to make the audio book.

Indeed, it had! One of my buddies—Yvonne Perry—suggested Scott Kidd, her son-in-law as my sound engineer. Suddenly, we were on the way. The music was recorded in my father’s parlor, and I recorded the 90 poems in Scott’s home studio. It took us eight months to produce, but moved smoothly the whole way.

Molly: Any tips for our book club members?

Janet: Yes. When preparing for the book club, use the Sightlines Collection as a package. Read the book while listening to the audio book. Taking in the material through both your eyes and ears leads even more directly to your heart. At the meeting queue up tracks on the audio book to enhance and deepen your discussion.

 Molly:
Here are a few tips of my own:
1. First of all, to purchase Janet’s Sightlines (the print only version) go here:  iUniverse.  Buy the new CD version here:  CD Baby
2.  To learn more about Janet and her collection, check out our Reading Guide for Sightlines
3. Download the delicious  recipe for scrapple that Janet and her father have kindly provided.  It would be fun to serve at a meeting devoted to Sightlines.

 

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