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.

 

Re-reading Old Favorites

Sunday, 21 June 2009 12:38

re-readingTwo good articles appeared recently about re-reading.  Roger Angell of The New Yorker and Verlyn Klinkenborg of The New York Times both talk about the joys of returning to favorite books.

Here’s Verlyn (we’re on a first-name basis, at least I am):

Part of the fun of re-reading is that you are no longer bothered by the business of finding out what happens.... I’m able to pay attention to what’s really happening in the language itself—a pleasure surely as great as discovering who marries whom, and who dies, and who does not.    (The New York Times 5/29/09)                    

For Book Clubs
Use part of a meeting to talk about books any of you have re-read—and why (why re-read and why that book?).  Was re-reading a different experience—more interesting, or less?  Have you read any book more than twice, thrice...?

 

I wanna be Liz Gilbert

Wednesday, 10 June 2009 12:47

liz-gilbertSo pretty. So Blonde. So articulate. Did I mention thin? On top of that, she writes Eat, Pray, Love, a terrific besteller.  (Me? I’d have called it Eat, Eat, Eat…but then it’s her book, and as I said, she’s thin.)

I ran across her on a video interview on the "Barnes & Noble Studio" page, Meet the Authors. It’s fun place to visit—good interviews with interesting authors.

Also check out Borders Book Club, another set of videos featuring an Ann Arbor, Michigan, book club that invites top authors in to speak.

Book Clubs can get some good ideas of books to read, authors to check out, discussion questions to ask. The videos are interesting enough to play in your meetings.

 

Just ♥ Words—section

Friday, 15 May 2009 11:13

sectionEnglish—what a great language to have fun with!  Below is a silly tongue-twister.  It’s a hoot when you say it fast.


Don’t You Just ♥ Words?

sects  |  section  |  sex  |  shun

Sects shun sex in this section.

Even harder . . .

In this section, sects shun sex.


I'm a grown woman
— and this is what I do for a living. Feel free to join in the fun. Leave a comment. Can you come up with any?  Think of it as brain exercise.

 

Lost Mothers—Why novels bump off moms

Saturday, 02 May 2009 14:16

mothersIf you're a mom in a novel, look out—the author may bump you off. You simply can't be around if your daughter is bound for adventure and has plans to become a true fictional heroine.

Think about it: literature’s most spunky, independent heriones? No moms. As far back as the infamous Fanny Hill (1749) or Jane Austen's Emma (1815) up through Nancy Drew to Ahab’s Wife, and most recently Amy Bloom’s Away...mothers are absent, gone, kaput.

Traditionally, a mother's role is to instill proper behavor and correct waywardness, especially in daughters. They're also fierce protectors of their offspring, not just in nature but in human domestic life as well. And speaking of "domestic," the very word is tied to mother's apron strings.

But girls and women, the ones who have adventures, who throw themselves in harm's way, aren't exactly "domesticated"—nor attached to anyone's apron strings. Females who go against the cultural grain are the ones who show up as heroines in novels; they have adventures and get into trouble. It doesn't work to have someone who insists on using inside voices.

Nothing against Moms. I'm one myself. But I'm not so sure I'd want my daughter sneaking aboard a 19th-century whaling ship or working in a brothel. The author would just have to write me out.

Ideas for book clubs

  1. Think of other books featuring independent heroines in which mothers are done away or are simply never present.
  2. Think of books with father-and-son or father-and-daughter adventures.
  3. Prove my theory wrong: come up with some mother-daughter adventure stories.(Okay...Little Women. Any others?)
 

Characters—gotta love 'em. Or do we?

Tuesday, 21 April 2009 14:41

hero-villainDo we have a main character to love a book? What happens if we despise the hero/heroine?

I just read a blurb for Zoe Heller's new book, Believers. Critics are praising it up and down, though some find the characters unlikable ... can’t relate to them ... even find them nasty. Yikes !

So, back to my question. Can we enjoy a book without liking its characters? Love the book, hate her—as in Serena, another recent book with a heroine no one can stand.

How about Emma—Jane Austen’s masterpiece? Even Austen knew her dear readers would have trouble liking her control-freak-of-a-heroine. Then there's Lolita, with one of the most dastardly heroes in literature? Humbert Humbert is surely enduring if not endearing—and the book is considered one of the great works of the 20th century.

Still ... it’s hard to get into a book when characters are unlikable. Am I alone? Probably not.

Questions for Book Clubs

  1. Can a bad character ruin a good book? 
  2. How do you begin most of your book discussions—by talking about the characters?  And if you don’t like the main character...where does the discussion go? Does it peter out?
  3. If a character is unlikable, is it intentional on the part of the author? To what end?
 

The Liberal Arts—down the tubes?

Saturday, 11 April 2009 14:57

ivory-towerA NY Times article (2/25/09) pondered whether a Liberal Arts education will be around much longer. Recent trends suggest maybe not. 

When I taught English, a number of students resented the time my class took from their studies in science & technology or business & finance. Those are the disciplines that would pay them good money . . . and pay off their tuition loans. But English? What good is it?

You can talk till you’re blue in the face—and I didabout the power of language, about the importance of clear thinking and coherent, persuasive writingthe things liberal arts teach us. 

After all, it was Bethany McClean, a former English major who first cracked the Enron scandal—because, as she said, she knew the right questions to ask.  There are lots of stories like that.

And I talked about how the humanities explore the important questions of life—

How does one lead a good life in a not-so-good world?
What does it mean to be human?
  

But, honestly?  $20,000 a year is a lot money to spend on trying to figure out what your humanity’s about. 

So maybe the pursuit of liberal arts is a luxury we can no longer afford. That’s what more than a few in the ivory towers are suggesting.

Questions for Book Clubs

  1. If college humanities courses fall off a cliff . . . will book clubs pick up the slack?  After all, to read and discuss books is to engage the very questions posed by humanities.
  2. But then who said book clubs are supposed to solve society’s problems?  Isn’t our roll simply to enjoy reading and sharing ideas, large or small?
 

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