Sully: My Search for What Really Matters 
Chesley B. Sullenberger, III and Jeffrey Zaslow, 2009
HarperCollins
368 pp.
ISBN-13:
978-0062564320


Summary
Now a major motion picture from Clint Eastwood, starring Tom Hanks—the inspirational autobiography by one of the most captivating American heroes of our time, Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger—the pilot who miraculously landed a crippled US Airways Flight 1549 in New York’s Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew.

On January 15, 2009, the world witnessed a remarkable emergency landing when Captain "Sully" Sullenberger skillfully glided US Airways Flight 1549 onto the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew.

His cool actions not only averted tragedy but made him a hero and an inspiration worldwide. His story is now a major motion picture from director / producer Clint Eastwood and stars Tom Hanks, Laura Linney and Aaron Eckhart.

Sully's story is one of dedication, hope, and preparedness, revealing the important lessons he learned through his life, in his military service, and in his work as an airline pilot. It reminds us all that, even in these days of conflict, tragedy and uncertainty, there are values still worth fighting for—that life's challenges can be met if we're ready for them. (From the publisher.)



Author Bios
Chester B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III
Birth—January 23, 1951
Where—Denison, Texas, USA
Education—B.A., U.S. Air Academy; M.S., Purdue; M.S., University of Northern Colorado
Currently—lives in the San Francisco Bay Area of California


Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger III is an American retired airline captain who works as an aviation safety consultant. He was hailed as a national hero in the United States when he successfully executed an emergency water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River off Manhattan, New York City, on January 15, 2009, after the aircraft was disabled by striking a flock of Canada geese during its climb out from LaGuardia Airport. All 155 people aboard the aircraft survived and there were no personal injuries.

He is the co-author, with Jeffrey Zaslow, of the New York Times best-seller Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters (2009), a memoir of his life and of the events surrounding Flight 1549. His second book is Making a Difference: Stories of Vision and Courage from America's Leaders (2012). He was ranked second in Time's "Top 100 Most Influential Heroes and Icons of 2009," after Michelle Obama.

Background
Chesley Sullenberger was born in Denison, Texas. As a a child, according to his sister, he built model planes and aircraft carriers, and say his high school classmates developed a passion for flying from watching jets based out of Perrin Air Force Base. At 16, Sully learned to fly in an Aeronca 7DC from a private airstrip near his home—training, which he would later say, grounded his aviation career for the rest of his life.

Sullenberger entered to the United States Air Force Academy, where as a freshman, he was selected for a cadet glider program and, by the end of that year, became an instructor pilot. In 1973, his graduation year, he received the Outstanding Cadet in Airmanship award, as the class "top flyer."

Upon graduation, the Air Force immediately sent Sullenberger to Purdue University, where he obtained a Master's in industrial psychology. He later received another Master's, in public administration, at the University of Northern California.

In 1975, Sully earned his USAF Pilot wings. During the next five years—in Arizona, the UK, and Nevada—he served as a fighter pilot, a flight leader, and a training officer. He attained the rank of Captain and worked on his first aircraft accident investigation.

In 1980 he left the military and joined the civilian world where, for the next 30 years, he flew commercial airliners for US Airways. All told, over the span of his military and commercial piloting career, Sully has more than 40 years—clocking in at 20,000 hours—of flying experience. In 2007 he founded his own company, Safety Reliability Methods, Inc. a firm that consults on organizational safety, performance, and reliability.

Sully has also served as a member of investigations of aircraft accidents for both the USAF and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). He has also been instrumental in developing and implementing the Crew Resource Management course used by US Airways, and he has taught the course to hundreds of airline crew members.

Flight 1549
On January 15, 2009, Sullenberger was piloting an Airbus A320 from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte, North Carolina, when it struck a large flock of birds, disabling both engines. Unable to return safely to any nearby airport, he landed the plane in Hudson River.

The last to leave the aircraft, Sully made certain everyone had been evacuated before retrieving the maintenance logbook and leaving the plane. All passengers and crews survived uninjured.

Though he became an instant hero, Sullenberger was required to testify in an NTSB investigation. Amid questions as to whether he might have been able to return the plane to LaGuardia, Sully maintained there had been no time to execute the necessary maneuvers, which might have killed all on board as well as many more on the ground. The NTSB ultimately ruled that Sullenberger made the correct decision.

Accolades from every corner of the nation flowed in—a phone call from then President George W. Bush, an invitation to the inauguration of new President Barack Obama, resolutions by both houses of Congress, parades, medals, TV appearances, TV episodes, standing ovations at sports events, honorary memberships, keys to cities, baseball season's first pitch, and even songs.

Retirement
After 30 years service with US Airways and its predecessor, Sullenberger retired on March 3, 2010. His final flight was US Airways Flight Number 1167 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was reunited with his co-pilot Jeff Skiles and a half dozen of the passengers on Flight 1549. Sullenberger said that his advocacy for aviation safety and the piloting profession would continue.

Yet before he went, Sullenberger testified before the U.S. House of Representatives that his salary had been cut by 40 percent, and that his pension—like most airline pensions—was terminated and replaced by a "PBGC" guarantee worth only pennies on the dollar. He went on to caution that airlines were under pressure to hire people with less experience."

Their salaries are so low that people with greater experience will not take those jobs. We have some carriers that have hired some pilots with only a few hundred hours of experience.... There’s simply no substitute for experience in terms of aviation safety.

Personal
Sullenberger is married to fitness instructor Lorraine "Lorrie" Sullenberger, with whom he has two daughters. The Sullenbergers reside in the San Francisco Bay Area. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 1/15/2017.)


Jeffrey Zaslow
Birth—October 6, 1958
Where—Broomall, Pennsylvania, USA
Death—February 10, 2012
Where—Warner Twp., Michigan
Education—B.A., Carnegie Mellon University
Awards—Best Columnist Award; Distinguished Column Writing Award

Jeffrey Lloyd Zaslow was an American author and journalist and a columnist for The Wall Street Journal.

Zaslow was widely known as coauthor of best-selling books including The Last Lecture (2008) with Randy Pausch; Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters (2009) with Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger; as well as Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope (2011) with Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. He was the sole author of numerous books, including Tell Me All About It (1990), The Girls from Ames (2009), and The Magic Room.

Early life
Zaslow was born in 1958 in Broomall, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, one of the four children of Naomi and Harry Zaslow. His father was a real estate investor. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University in 1980 with a degree in creative writing, Zaslow began his professional writing career at the Orlando Sentinel.

Career
When he was 29, Zaslow won a competition (with 12,000 applicants) held by the Chicago Sun-Times to replace the Ann Landers advice column. Later, he gained recognition as the for his own advice column called "All That Zazz" at the Wall Street Journal.

He was twice named Best Columnist (in a newspaper with more than 100,000 circulation) by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists as. He also received the Distinguished Column Writing Award from the New York Newspaper Publishers Association. While working at the Sun-Times in Orlando, Zaslow received the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award. He appeared on such television programs as The Tonight Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, 60 Minutes, The Today Show and Good Morning America.

Personal
Zaslow married Sherry Margolis, a TV news anchor with WJBK television in Detroit, and together lived with their three daughters in West Bloomfield, Michigan.

Zaslow died on February 10, 2012, at age 53 in a car accident in Michigan while on tour for his non-fiction book The Magic Room. Former co-author Chesley Sullenberger was among those who eulogized Zaslow at his funeral on February 13.

Following his death, Zaslow was the subject of a number of written tributes, including an essay by columnist Bob Greene, titled Jeff Zaslow's last lesson, pieces by fellow journalists and by bloggers, posts on the Wall Street Journal remembrance page, and eulogies by family members on the family's remembrance page. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 1/15/2017.)



Book Reviews
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, nascetur neque iaculis vestibulum, sed nam arcu et, eros lacus nulla aliquet condimentum, mauris ut proin maecenas, dignissim et pede ultrices ligula elementum. Sed sed donec rutrum, id et nulla orci. Convallis curabitur mauris lacus, mattis purus rutrum porttitor arcu quis
Publishers Weekly


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, nascetur neque iaculis vestibulum, sed nam arcu et, eros lacus nulla aliquet condimentum, mauris ut proin maecenas, dignissim et pede ultrices ligula elementum. Sed sed donec rutrum, id et nulla orci. Convallis curabitur mauris lacus, mattis purus rutrum porttitor arcu quis
Library Journal


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, nascetur neque iaculis vestibulum, sed nam arcu et, eros lacus nulla aliquet condimentum, mauris ut proin maecenas, dignissim et pede ultrices ligula elementum. Sed sed donec rutrum, id et nulla orci. Convallis curabitur mauris lacus, mattis purus rutrum porttitor arcu quis
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

(We'll add specific questions if and when they're made available by the publisher.)

top of page (summary)

The Lost City of the Monkey God:  A True Story
Douglas Preston, 2017
Grand Central Publishing
336 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781455540006



Summary
A five-hundred-year-old legend. An ancient curse. A stunning medical mystery. And a pioneering journey into the unknown heart of the world's densest jungle.

Since the days of conquistador Hernan Cortes, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God.

Indigenous tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and they warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die.

In 1940, swashbuckling journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts and an electrifying story of having found the Lost City of the Monkey God-but then committed suicide without revealing its location.

Three quarters of a century later, bestselling author Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy.

In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization.

Venturing into this raw, treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful wilderness to confirm the discovery, Preston and the team battled torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. But it wasn't until they returned that tragedy struck: Preston and others found they had contracted in the ruins a horrifying, sometimes lethal—and incurable—disease.

Suspenseful and shocking, filled with colorful history, hair-raising adventure, and dramatic twists of fortune, The Lost City of the Monkey God is the absolutely true, eyewitness account of one of the great discoveries of the twenty-first century. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—May 20, 1956
Where—Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Education—B.A., Pomona College
Currently—lives in New Mexico and Maine


Childhood
Douglas Preston was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1956, and grew up in the deadly boring suburb of Wellesley. Following a distinguished matriculation at a private nursery school—he was almost immediately expelled—he attended public schools and the Cambridge School of Weston.

Notable events in his early life included the loss of a fingertip at the age of three to a bicycle; the loss of his two front teeth to his brother Richard's fist; and various broken bones, also incurred in dust-ups with Richard. (Richard went on to write The Hot Zone and The Cobra Event, which tells you all you need to know about what it was like to grow up with him as a brother.)

As they grew up, Doug, Richard, and their little brother David roamed the quiet streets of Wellesley, terrorizing the natives with home-made rockets and incendiary devices mail-ordered from the backs of comic books or concocted from chemistry sets.

Writing career
After unaccountably being rejected by Stanford University (a pox on it), Preston attended Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he studied mathematics, biology, physics, anthropology, and geology, before settling down to English literature.

After graduating, Preston began his career at the American Museum of Natural History in New York as an editor, writer, and manager of publications. Preston also taught nonfiction writing at Princeton University.

His eight-year stint at the Museum resulted in the non-fiction book, Dinosaurs in the Attic, edited by a rising young star at St. Martin's Press, Lincoln Child. During this period, Preston gave Child a midnight tour of the museum, and in the darkened Hall of Late Dinosaurs, under a looming T. Rex, Child turned to Preston and said: "This would make the perfect setting for a thriller!" That thriller would, of course, be Relic.

In 1986, Preston piled everything he owned into the back of a Subaru and moved from New York City to Santa Fe to write full time, following the advice of S. J. Perelman that "the dubious privilege of a freelance writer is he's given the freedom to starve anywhere." After the requisite period of penury, Preston achieved a small success with the publication of Cities of Gold, a nonfiction book about Coronado's search for the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola.

To research the book, Preston and the photographer Walter W. Nelson retraced on horseback 1,000 miles of Coronado's route across Arizona and New Mexico, packing their supplies and sleeping under the stars—and nearly killing themselves in the process. Since then he has published other nonfiction books on the history of the American Southwest.

In the early 1990s Preston and Child teamed up to write suspense novels; Relic was the first, made into a movie by Paramount Pictures. In Relic they introduced one of the most celebrated fictional detectives of modern times, Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast. Relic has been followed by more than a dozen other books in the Pendergast series, including The Cabinet of Curiosities, Blue Labyrinth and The Obsidian Chamber.

Their last fifteen novels in a row have been New York Times best-sellers, including several reaching the #1 position. The Cabinet of Curiosities and the other Pendergast novels are currently being developed into a television series called PENDERGAST, by legendary producer Gale Anne Hurd ("The Terminator," "Aliens," "The Walking Dead.")

Preston has also continued a career in journalism. He writes about archaeology, history and paleontology for the New Yorker magazine, as well as for Smithsonian, National Geographic, Harper's and the Atlantic. In the course of his journalistic profession Preston has explored lost temples in the jungles of Cambodia, been the first to enter a tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, and ridden on horseback across thousands of miles of the American Southwest-which earned him membership in the elite "Long Riders Guild."

The Monster of Florence and the Amanda Knox case
In the year 2000, Preston moved with his family to Florence, Italy, to write a murder mystery set in Tuscany. Instead of writing the novel, he became fascinated by the story of a serial killer named il Mostro di Firenze, the Monster of Florence. He teamed up with an Italian journalist, Mario Spezi, who was an expert on the case.

In 2008 they published a nonfiction book, The Monster of Florence, which was a huge bestseller, spending four months on the New York Times list. The book won journalism awards in both Italy and the United States. It is currently under development as a film.

The same Italian prosecutor who charged Preston with crimes in the Monster case, Giuliano Mignini, was the prosecutor who accused Amanda Knox of murder in 2007 in Perugia. Preston became one of Knox's defenders. In 2009, Preston argued on 48 Hours on CBS that the case against Knox was "based on lies, superstition, and crazy conspiracy theories." Preston went on to defend Knox (as well as to explain the Italian legal system), appearing on a number of TV shows, including the Today Show, Anderson Cooper 360°, and The Kelly File on Fox. He also wrote about the case in a Kindle Single, "Trial by Fury: Internet Savagery and the Amada Knox Case" and in "The Forgotten Killer: Rudy Guede and the Murder of Meredith Kercher."

The Lost City of the Monkey God
Preston's most recent nonfiction book, The Lost City of the Monkey God, published in 2017, tells the true story of the discovery of an ancient, Pre-Columbian city in an unexplored valley deep in the Mosquitia Mountains of Honduras.

First USO author tour into a war zone
In 2010, Preston participated in the first USO tour sponsored by the International Thriller Writers organization, along with authors David Morrell, Steve Berry, Andy Harp, and James Rollins. After visiting with military personnel and wounded soldiers at National Navy Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the group spent a week in Iraq, meeting with soldiers and signing books, marking the first time in the USO's 69-year history that authors had visited a combat zone.

Authors United
In 2014, Preston founded the organization Authors United. During a contract dispute between Amazon and the publisher Hachette, Amazon tried to put pressure on Hachette and other publishers by delaying shipment, blocking availability and eliminating discounts on 8,000 books, causing severe financial harm to 3,000 authors.

Preston garnered the support of like-minded authors, including many Nobel Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners, as well as hundreds of midlist, debut, and struggling young authors, who signed an open letter protesting Amazon's unfair negotiating tactics. Since that time, Authors United, working with the American Booksellers Association, the Authors Guild and the New American Foundation, have petitioned the Justice Department to investigate Amazon's growing monopoly in the book world and the ways that company has used its dominance to the harm of authors, bookstores, and publishers.

Other activities
In addition to Authors United, Preston was one of the early founders of International Thriller Writers and served as its Co-President. He serves on the board of the Authors Guild and the Authors Guild Foundation. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. In 2011, Pomona College conferred on Preston the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa. He is an avid skier, mountain climber, and hiker.

He counts in his ancestry the poet Emily Dickinson, the early sexologist Robert Latou Dickinson, and the infamous murderer and opium addict Amasa Greenough. He divides his time between New Mexico and Maine. (From the author's website.)



Book Reviews
A well-documented and engaging read...The author's narrative is rife with jungle derring-do and the myriad dangers of the chase.
USA Today


Deadly snakes, flesh-eating parasites, and some of the most forbidding jungle terrain on earth were not enough to deter Douglas Preston from a great story.
Boston Globe


Replete with informative archaeology lessons and colorful anecdotes about the challenges Elkins' crew faced during the expedition, including torrential rains and encounters with deadly snakes, Preston's uncommon travelogue is as captivating as any of his more fanciful fictional thrillers.
Booklist


(Starred review.) [A]nother perilous Preston...well-known for two things: going out and doing things that would get most people killed and turning up ways to get killed.... A story that moves from thrilling to sobering, fascinating to downright scary.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

(We'll add specific questions if and when they're made available by the publisher.)

top of page (summary)

Columbine  
Dave Cullen, 2009
Grand Central Publishing
443 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780446546928



Summary
The tragedies keep coming. As we reel from the latest horror . . .

So begins the epilogue, illustrating how Columbine became the template for nearly two decades of "spectacle murders."

It is a false script, seized upon by a generation of new killers. In the wake of Newtown, Aurora, and Virginia Tech, the imperative to understand the crime that sparked this plague grows more urgent every year.

What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we "know" is wrong. It wasn't about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia.

Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world's leading forensic psychologists, and the killers' own words and drawings—several reproduced in a new appendix.

Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Dave Cullen is a journalist and author who has contributed to Slate, Salon, and the New York Times. He is considered the nation's foremost authority on the Columbine killers, and has also written extensively on Evangelical Christians, gays in the military, politics, and pop culture.

A graduate of the MFA program at the University of Boulder, Cullen has won several writing awards, including a GLAAD Media Award, Society of Professional Journalism awards, and several Best of Salon citations. (From the publisher.)



Book Reviews
Columbine is an excellent work of media criticism, showing how legends become truths through continual citation; a sensitive guide to the patterns of public grief, ... a fine example of old fashioned journalism . . . moving things along with agility and grace.
Jennifer Senior -  New York Times Book Review


Exhaustive and supremely level-headed.... The ways in which the Columbine story became distorted in the retelling make for one of the most fascinating aspects of Cullen's book.... Hopping back and forth in time, Cullen manages to tell this complicated story with remarkable clarity and coherence. As one of the first reporters on the scene in 1999, he has been studying this event firsthand for a decade, and his book exudes a sense of authority missing from much of the original media coverage.... Cullen strikes just the right tone of tough-minded compassion, for the most part steering clear of melodrama, sermonizing and easy answers.
Gary Krist - Washington Post


Cullen's book is a nerve-wracking, methodical and panoramic account.... Columbine has its terrifying sections, particularly during Cullen's minute-by-minute rendering of the chaotic 49-minute assault. He puts us inside and outside the building, and he captures the disbelief viewers experienced in 'almost witnessing mass murder' live on television.
Cleveland Plain Dealer


A staggering achievement.... Rather than burden the deftly written prose with excessive footnotes, Cullen wisely includes a detailed timeline, bibliography and lengthy notes in the back of the book. The 417-page Columbine tears open old wounds but does so with an aching, unflinching clarity that's only possible with hindsight.... [An] admirable, harrowing work...one of the finer nonfiction efforts thus far in 2009.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram


Comprehensive.... It's a book that hits you like a crime scene photo, a reminder of what journalism at its best is all about. Cullen knows his material from the inside; he covered Columbine, for Salon and Slate primarily,
''beginning around noon on the day of the attack.'' But if this gives him a certain purchase on the story, his perspective is what resonates.
Los Angeles Times


A remarkable book. It is painstakingly reported, well-organized and compellingly written.... For any reader who wants to understand the complicated nature of evil, this book is a masterpiece.
Seattle Times


While the details of the day are indeed gruesome, Cullen neither embellishes nor sensationalizes. His unadorned prose and staccato sections offer welcome relief from the grisly minutiae.... Cullen's honor and reporting skills propel this book beyond tabloid and into true literature.
Newsday


Comprehensively nightmarish.... Cullen's task is difficult not only because the events in question are almost literally unspeakable but also because even as he tells the story of a massacre that took the lives of 15 people, including the killers, he has to untell the stories that have already been told.... Should this story be told at all? There's an element of sick, voyeuristic fascination to it—we don't need an exercise in disaster porn. But Columbine is a necessary book.... The actual events of April 20, 1999, are exactly as appalling as you'd expect, and Cullen doesn't spare us a second of them.
Time


The definitive account, [of the tragedy] will likely be Dave Cullen's Columbine, a nonfiction book that has the pacing of an action movie and the complexity of a Shakespearean drama.... Cullen has a gift, if that's the right word, for excruciating detail. At times the language is so vivid you can almost smell the gunpowder and the fear.
Newsweek


A chilling page-turner, a striking accomplishment given that Cullen's likely readers almost certainly know how the tragic story ends.... I knew Cullen was a dogged reporter and a terrific writer, but even I was blown away by the pacing and story-telling he mastered in Columbine, a disturbing, inspiring work of art.
Salon


From the very first page, I could not put Columbine Dave Cullen's searing narrative, down.... How the killings unfolded, and why, reads like the grisliest of fiction. Would that it were not true.
Entertainment Weekly


Leveraged for political ends by Michael Moore on film and adopted for convenience by the news media as shorthand for teenage violence, Columbine has begun to feel as impenetrable and allegorical as Greek myth. So the intensive reporting of Denver-based journalist Dave Cullen is welcome.... Cullen creates more than a nuanced portrait of school shooters as young men. He writes a human story—a compassionate narrative of teenagers with guns (and bombs, too), and the havoc they wreak on a school, a community, and America.
Esquire


(Starred review.) [R]emarkable.... Cullen not only dispels several of the prevailing myths about the event but tackles the hardest question of all: why did it happen?.... Readers will come away from Cullen's unflinching account with a deeper understanding of what drove these boys to kill..
Publishers Weekly


Relying on more than ten years of research, award-winning journalist Cullen...pieces together a stunning, authoritative, full-scope view of the Columbine tragedy, reaching powerful and controversial conclusions and revealing several facts previously unknown to the public.  —Terry Ann Lawler, Phoenix P.L.

Library Journal


Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.... Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy. Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.
Kirkus Reviews 



Discussion Questions
These questions were written and graciously shared with LitLovers by Jennifer Johnson, MA, MLIS, Reference Librarian at Springdale Public Library in Arkansas. Thank you (again), Jennifer.

1. Do you remember where or what you were doing when the Columbine massacre occurred? What were your thoughts about it?

2. How did Columbine impact your life?

3. As a reader, what was the hardest part to read? Did you skip any sections?

4. Teenagers often hide or conceal things about themselves from their parents or their friends. Given that, how are Dylan and Eric different from average teenagers? What were Dylan and Eric hiding from each other?

5. Of the many myths debunked in the book, what surprised you the most? After almost 18 years, why do those myths still exist and are assumed to be true?

6. What is the impact of this book? Did the author succeed in providing a comprehensive, candid portrayal of the events leading up to and after Columbine?

7. Looking at the various levels of trust and relationship, is there a pattern to how Eric and Dylan behaved and interacted with others?

8. How are men and women depicted in the book? Are there any stereotypes that can be identified in the book?

9. Did the author, at any time, glorify Eric and Dylan? Did the killers leave the legacy they had intended?

10. After reading Columbine, it is obvious that Eric Harris was the primary force behind the attack, but how did Dylan participate? Was his participation in the attack similar to his participation in the friendship with Eric?

11. Since Columbine, there have been many school shootings. Has society’s reaction to such events changed since Columbine? How does the response to Virginia Tech or Sandy Elementary differ from Columbine?

12. How are the killers’ parents depicted in the book? Does the author portray them fairly and equally or is there an undertone of parental blame?

13. Given the digital age and current privacy issues, how different would this attack have been if committed in 2016 instead of 1999?

14. Can any of the participants be considered heroes? Are any considered scapegoats? Is anyone else responsible for the killings, other than Dylan and Eric?

15. What lessons have we learned since Columbine?

16. Why do you think the Harris family has refused to publically discuss the actions and death of their son? Why do you think the Klebold family has actively and publically discussed the actions and death of their son?

(Questions courtesy of Jennifer Johnson, Springdale Public Library. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

top of page (summary)

The Private Lives of the Tudors:  Uncovering the Secrets of Britain's Greatest Dynasty
Tracy Borman, 2016
Grove/Atlantic
464 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780802125996



Summary
England’s Tudor monarchs—Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I—are perhaps the most celebrated and fascinating of all royal families in history. Their love affairs, their political triumphs, and their overturning of the religious order are the subject of countless works of popular scholarship. But for all we know about Henry’s quest for male heirs, or Elizabeth’s purported virginity, the private lives of the Tudors remain largely beyond our grasp.

In The Private Lives of the Tudors, Tracy Borman delves deep behind the public face of the monarchs, showing us what their lives were like beyond the stage of court.

Drawing on the accounts of those closest to them, Borman examines Tudor life in fine detail. What did the monarchs eat? What clothes did they wear, and how were they designed, bought, and cared for? How did they practice their faith? And in earthlier moments, who did they love, and how did they give birth to the all-important heirs?

Delving into their education, upbringing, sexual lives, and into the kitchens, bathrooms, schoolrooms, and bedrooms of court, Borman charts out the course of the entire Tudor dynasty, surfacing new and fascinating insights into these celebrated figures. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1972
Where—Scothern, Lincolnshire, England (UK)
Education—Ph.D., University of Hull
Currently—lives in London, England


Tracy Borman is a historian and author from Scothern, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom. She is the author of several histories, many but not all of which are centered on the Tudor Dynasty. Her most recent work is The Private Lives of the Tudors (2016).

Borman was born and brought up in the village of Scothern, near Lincoln. She was educated at  Ellison Boulters Academy, William Farr School, Welton, and Lincoln Castle Academy. She taught history at the University of Hull, where she was awarded a Ph.D in 1997.

Borman is perhaps best known for Elizabeth's Women (2010), which was serialized (before publication) as a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week in September 2009. That same month, Borman appeared on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour.

In 2013 she was appointed Joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces alongside Lucy Worsley. She is also chief executive of the Heritage Education Trust.

Borman and her husband, whom she married at the Tower of London, live in New Malden, south-west London.

Books
♦ 2016 - The Private Lives of the Tudors: Uncovering the Secrets of Britain's Greatest Dynasty
♦ 2014 - Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant
♦ 2013 - Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction
♦ 2011- Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror
♦ 2011- The Ring and the Crown: A History of Royal Weddings, 1066-2011 (with Alison Weir, Kate Williams and Sarah Gristwood)
♦ 2010 - Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen
♦ 2007 - Henrietta Howard: King's Mistress, Queen's Servant

(From Wikipeida.  Retrieved 1/2/2017.)



Book Reviews
For Borman, the intimate particulars of everyday life are what help the past come bracingly, stirringly alive. Her full-quivered social history of the Tudor monarchs—Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I—who, beginning in 1485, constituted one of the most celebrated royal families of all time, furnishes readers with a "Hey, did you know...?" on almost every page.... Social history lives and dies in the integrity of its details, and this authoritative work teems with well-sourced material, presenting the Tudor world with a particular focus on the personal habits and strengths of its women, making the claim that "the art of majesty was as evident behind closed doors as it was in public."
Jean Zimmerman - New York Times Book Review


[A] fascinating, detailed account.... Borman ranges far and wide in her quest to throw light on what the Tudor kings and queens ate, what they wore, what they did with their days and how they spent their nights.... This is a book of rich scholarship. Tracy Borman...knows her Tudor history inside out.
Daily Mail (UK)


Borman approaches her topic with huge enthusiasm and a keen eye.... All good fun. And there is plenty of it.... Borman really succeeds when she uses her store of homely tidbits to recast our perceptions of Tudors we thought we knew.... This is a very human story of a remarkable family, full of vignettes that sit long in the mind.
Sunday Times (UK)


Tracy Borman’s eye for detail is impressive; the book is packed with fascinating courtly minutiae.... [Borman is] a very good historian and this is a wonderful book.
London Times (UK)


Like Alison Weir...Borman is an authoritative and engaging writer, good at prising out those humanizing details that make the past alive to us.
Guardian (UK)


[T]he amount of detail about the rarefied world that the Tudors inhabited can be overwhelming, but she does unearth some obscure and intriguing tidbits that have been overlooked by other historians.... Borman’s fine book goes far toward humanizing [them].
Publishers Weekly


[T]his work uniquely focuses on the minutiae of court life and the personal, behind-the-scenes details of Tudor royals.... Borman's history expands well beyond public knowledge to the definite delight of Tudor fans. —Katie McGaha, County of Los Angeles P.L.
Library Journal


Amusing, well-researched.... A mostly entertaining mixture of esoteric social history and well-known details of the personal lives of Tudor monarchs.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Private Lives of the Tudors...then take off on your own:

1. What surprised you most about Tracy Borman's personal history of the Tudor royalty? What did you find, well..."over the top" in terms of self-indulgence? How coddled were the Tudors in terms of their personal habits? After reading her book, does medieval royalty seem  particularly romantic or attractive as perhaps you once thought?

2. Borman's title is titillating: uncovering secrets heretofore unknown (or revealed). Does the book live up to its tempting title? Or is the focus of the book something else entirely?

3. Talk about the 15th and 16th century concept of privacy, especially in terms of the royal families. How different was their idea of privacy from today's?

4. Follow-up to Question 3: Talk about how the primary duty of royalty—which was to produce an heir—affected the sense of privacy. What does Borman mean when she writes, "The art of majesty was as evident behind closed doors as it was in public"?

5. Discuss Borman's descriptions of the era's medications and medical treatments. Funny? Horrifying? Positively "medieval"?

6. Borman writes, "for a person of royal blood, private desires could have deadly outcomes." Consider, then, the dire consequences of Lord Seymour's indiscretions with young Princess Elizabeth.

7. Would you have wanted to live in the Tudor era considering its level of sanitation, disease, and bodily odors?

(Questions issued by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

top of page (summary)

The Perfect Horse:  The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Captured by the Nazis
Elizabeth Letts, 2016
Random House
400 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780345544803



Summary
The riveting true story of the valiant rescue of priceless pedigree horses in the last days of World War II.

In the chaotic last days of the war, a small troop of battle-weary American soldiers captures a German spy and makes an astonishing find—his briefcase is empty but for photos of beautiful white horses that have been stolen and kept on a secret farm behind enemy lines.

Hitler has stockpiled the world’s finest purebreds in order to breed the perfect military machine—an equine master race. But with the starving Russian army closing in, the animals are in imminent danger of being slaughtered for food.

With only hours to spare, one of the U.S. Army’s last great cavalrymen, Colonel Hank Reed, makes a bold decision—with General George Patton’s blessing—to mount a covert rescue operation. Racing against time, Reed’s small but determined force of soldiers, aided by several turncoat Germans, steals across enemy lines in a last-ditch effort to save the horses.

Pulling together this multistranded story, Elizabeth Letts introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters: Alois Podhajsky, director of the famed Spanish Riding School of Vienna, a former Olympic medalist who is forced to flee the bomb-ravaged Austrian capital with his entire stable in tow; Gustav Rau, Hitler’s imperious chief of horse breeding, a proponent of eugenics who dreams of genetically engineering the perfect warhorse for Germany; and Tom Stewart, a senator’s son who makes a daring moonlight ride on a white stallion to secure the farm’s surrender.

A compelling account for animal lovers and World War II buffs alike, The Perfect Horse tells for the first time the full story of these events. Elizabeth Letts’s exhilarating tale of behind-enemy-lines adventure, courage, and sacrifice brings to life one of the most inspiring chapters in the annals of human valor. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth— June 23, 1961
Where—Houston, Texas, US
Education—B.A., Yale University
Currently—lives in southern California


Elizabeth Letts was born in Houston, Texas, and grew up in southern California. As a teenager, she was a competitive equestrian three-day eventer. She attended Northfield Mount Hermon School and Yale College where she majored in History. She served in the Peace Corps in Morocco.

 Letts is the author of several books: Quality of Care (2005), Family Planning (2006), The Butter Man, a children's book (2008), The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman the Horse that Inspired a Nation (2011), and The Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis (2016). The latter two books, both about horses, reached the New York Times Bestsellers List—at #1 and #7, respectively.

Letts's younger brother, John, is a retired professional tennis player. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 12/12/2016.)



Book Reviews
Winningly readable.... Letts captures both the personalities and the stakes of this daring mission with such a sharp ear for drama that the whole second half of the book reads like a WWII thriller dreamed up by Alan Furst or Len Deighton.... The right director could make a Hollywood classic out of this fairy tale.
Christian Science Monitor


Hard to put down.... One need not be an equestrian or horse lover in order to appreciate this story.
New York Journal of Books

 
The Perfect Horse raises the narrative bar. Applying her skills as a researcher, storyteller and horsewoman, Letts provides context that makes this account spellbinding.
Culturess


A truly fascinating chronicle of a dedicated group of horsemen and the risks they were willing to take to preserve the equine icon that is the Lipizzane.... I was hooked from start to finish by Letts’s incredible attention to detail and her gripping account of the events surrounding and leading up to the rescue mission.
Horse Nation


A wholly original, illuminating perspective on the war The Perfect Horse tells a fascinating story of bravery and benevolence that has gone far too long without reaching an audience. Full of action, heartbreak and well-developed characters, it has everything needed to be adapted into an outstanding war movie. To anyone with a love of horses or other animals, Letts’ fantastic, almost humanizing characterizations of some of the horses will make this book an instant favorite. And to history buffs, The Perfect Horse provides a totally fresh look at WWII that can’t be found anywhere else.
Bookreporter


An absorbing history of an unusual rescue mission in the closing days of the war in Europe . . . Letts does an excellent job of bringing the various players to life.
BookPage


Letts...eloquently brings together the many facets of this unlikely, poignant story underscoring the love and respect of man for horses.... The author's elegant narrative conveys how the love for these amazing creatures transcends national animosities.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. Alois Podhajsky said, "Equestrian art is, perhaps more than any other, closely related to the wisdom of life." What does he mean by this? Is the relationship between horse and man fundamentally different from the relationship between humans and other animals, or is it similar?

2. The Spanish Riding School of Vienna has survived for five centuries in spite of wars and changes of governments that have toppled many more mighty institutions. What was special about the Spanish Riding School that helped it survive?

3. In The Perfect Horse we see how ideas developed to improve animal breeding contributed to the pseudoscience of eugenics—an early 20th century movement to improve the human race that eventually contributed to the Nazi philosophy of racial purity. Are there any drawbacks to breeding purebred animals? What made people want to apply the theories of animal breeding to humans? Do you think this could ever happen again?

4. Several of the major players in this story had a connection to the Olympic Games. George Patton competed in 1912, Podhajsky in 1936. Reed was an alternate for the 1932 team. How did the Olympic experience shape these men and how did it influence their decisions during the war?

5. George Patton famously said that during peacetime, playing polo was the closest that an officer could get to real combat. Many of World War II’s most brilliant leaders were horsemen, and many believed that eliminating the training on horseback would be an irreparable loss to the Army. What was it about their devotion to horses that made them so successful in war? Does working with animals teach skills that are impossible to learn in any other way?

6. There were surprisingly few events during World War II in which men from opposing sides joined together in a common task. Why did the German horsemen risk treason to join with the Americans? What would have likely happened if the Germans had decided to stay put and wait for the end of the war? Given the circumstances, did everyone involved make the right decision?

7. Critics of Patton have said that he was more concerned about gathering up Lipizzaner horses than with saving human refugees and concentration camp survivors. Given the number of other atrocities going on in late April, 1945, was it worth the sacrifice of men and manpower to safeguard the horses?

8. The bravery and selflessness of Captain Tom Stewart, who followed orders to ride across enemy lines to negotiate the stud farm’s release, seems striking to a modern reader. As the son of a sitting senator, certainly he could have been spared being put into such a dangerous situation. What was it about Tom Stewart’s character that was exceptional? Were the morals and motivations of the World War II’s citizen soldiers different from the way people view their duty and honor today?

9. While the Lipizzaner were mostly returned to their native Austria, Witez was shipped to America, eventually sold off at auction, and never returned to his native Poland. The author, in her research, discovered that the Poles were actively trying to reclaim Witez before he was ever shipped to America, but the Americans were distrustful of the Poles and dismissed their claims to the horse. Should Witez have been returned to Poland or was his rightful place in America?

10. At Hank Reed’s funeral, more than twenty of the men who had served under him came to pay their respects. What was it about Hank Reed’s background, training, or education made his men so devoted to him.? What can we learn about leadership by looking at the lives of the men and women who were part of "The Greatest Generation?"
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

top of page (summary)

Site by BOOM Boom Supercreative

LitLovers © 2017