Welcome to the KPL Book Club Blogspot

Welcome to the internet home of the Kilbourn Public Library (KPL) Book Club. The KPL Book Club meets at the library once a month. A book is chosen for each month and then members of the book club meet the last Monday and Wednesday of every month for lively discussion and treats. While we can’t offer you treats via the internet, this KPL Reads blog was designed for those of you who would like to participate in the book club but don’t have time to join us at meetings. Each month KPL staff will post discussion topics and questions to get you “talking”. Join in the discussion by adding a post to the blog. Click on the word comments below the post you want to "talk" about and write your comment. Be sure to check back often to see feedback and comments.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is reading Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott for the January book selection.


Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women—a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow—who were spies.  Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it.


Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy examines women's roles and how they changed when the men in their lives--fathers, husbands, brothers--enlisted in the Union and Confederate armies.  What do you think was the most difficult aspect of being a woman during this time?  Do you think most women considered their increased responsibilities a hardship or a freedom? 


There are several instances in which the main female characters manipulate or outright defy traditional gender roles.  How does each character use her femininity--and society's notions of femininity--to achieve her goals?  What did President Lincoln's advisor mean when he lamented the proliferation of "fashionable female spies?"


Emma Edmonds went furthest in upending gender roles, disguising herself as "Frank Thompson" to enlist in the Union army.  How do you think Emma (and the other approximate 400 women who enlisted as men) pulled off this spectacular feat?  What were some of the daily challenges they endured in living as imposter men among real ones?


Discuss each character's relationship with the men--both familiar and strange--in their lives.  How did the women use men to their advantage?  Were the women ever used themselves?


Rose's daughter, Little Rose, is a crucial part of her espionage work.  Do you think Rose was justified in using her daughter in her missions?  What would you have done in her place?


Which spy did you relate to the most, and why?   What motivated each of the women?  If you had lived during the Civil War, would you have dared to behave as these women did?


Let us know what you think of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.





Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is reading a selection of Holiday Books for December.   Choose your favorite Holiday Book and let us know what it is and why you like it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The November book selection for the Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is Evicted:  Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond.  This is also the UW-Madison Go Big Read common book selection for 2016-2017.


In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge.  Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare.  But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. 


In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today.  As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America's vast inequality--and to people's determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.


Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem.  It's unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.                            (From the publisher)


Throughout Evicted, we learn how eviction essentially traps poor people in a cycle of poverty, how it makes securing future housing more difficult, can lead to a loss of a job, and have other damaging effects on families.  Desmond argues that eviction is "a cause and not just a condition of poverty" (p. 299)..  What does he mean by this statement?  When you think of causes of poverty, what comes to mind? Why are the poor disproportionately impacted by eviction, while the middle class are not?


Desmond points out that landlords are often unwilling to rent to tenants with children;  "Children didn't shield families from eviction;  they exposed them to it" (p. 287).  How do children "expose" families to eviction?  What are the long-term consequences for children who don't have stable housing?


In Milwaukee, evictions spike in the summer and early fall and dip in November when the moratorium on winter utility disconnections begins.  When tenants are unable to pay both the rent and the utilities, how might they make a decision about which expense to pay first?  If you were forced to choose between paying rent or heat, which would you choose?


If you were unexpectedly evicted from your home, what would the fallout be?  How would this impact your education, employment, and relationships?  How might a sudden change like eviction affect your physical and mental well-being?


Why do you think there is so much research on public housing and other housing policies but very little research on the private rental market?  What solutions to the lack of affordable housing does Desmond propose?  Do you have other ideas for how this issue could be addressed in your community?


Let us know what you think of this unforgettable book.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Kilbourn Book Discussion Group is reading Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler for the October book selection.  Nickolas Butler was raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  He lives on sixteen acres of land in rural Wisconsin with his wife and two children.  

Welcome to Little Wing.  It's a place like hundreds of others, nothing special, really.  But for four friends--all born and raised in this small Wisconsin town--it is home.  And now they are men, coming into their own, or struggling to do so. 

One of them never left, still working the family farm that has been tilled for generations.  But others felt the need to move on, with varying degrees of success.  One trades commodities, another took to the rodeo circuit, and one of them even hit it big as a rock star.  And then there's Beth, a woman who has meant something special in each of their lives. 

Now all four are brought together for a wedding.  Little Wing seems even smaller than before.  While lifelong bonds are still strong, there are stresses--between the friends, between husbands and wives.  There will be heartbreak, but there will also be hope, healing, even heroism as these memorable people learn the true meaning of adult friendship and love.

Shotgun Lovesongs is a truly remarkable book--a novel that once read will never be forgotten.

Many of the characters in Shotgun Lovesongs regret specific moments in their life, moments that (perhaps) other people may not regret at all.  Do you feel regret is a useful emotion?  What do you regret?  Which characters (and their regrets) do you identify with?

Fame seems to be an important theme or consideration throughout Shotgun Lovesongs.  Do you feel that the novel critiques fame?  Celebrates fame?  What do think about the cult of personality in America?  Do you care about celebrity?  Read tabloids?  Why?

Some critics have said that Shotgun Lovesongs is overly sentimental.  Do you think this novel is sentimental?  Is sentimentality something to be altogether avoided in fiction?

Beth and Leland share one night of romance.  This incident happened when neither character was married or even dating someone.  And yet, it is enough to unravel lifelong friendships.  What do you think about this?  Could you relate to characters and their reactions?

There is a kind of dichotomy in this novel between city and country.  Has your own life been subject to the push-pull of living rural vs. living urban?  What have you had to sacrifice to live where you live?  Do you see it as a sacrifice?

Let us know what you think of Shotgun Lovesongs.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Kilbourn Public Library Book Club selection for September is Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.  This is an exquisite debut novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. 

Lydia is dead.  But they don't know this yet...   Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee;  their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair.  Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue.

When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. 

A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait.

Pick up a copy of the book at the Kilbourn Public Library or on the Bookmobile and join the discussion.

Think about the relationships between Nath, Lydia, and Hannah.  How do the siblings both understand and mystify one another?

Why do you think Lydia is the favorite child of James and Marilyn?  How does this pressure affect Lydia, and what kind of impact do you think it has on Nath and Hannah?

How did you react to the "Marco Polo" pool scene with James and Nath?  What do you think of James's decision?

What is the meaning of the novel's title?  To whom do the "I" and "you" refer?

What would have happened if Lydia had reached the dock?  Do you think she would have been able to change her parents' views and expectations of her?

Think about the relationship Marilyn and her mother have to cooking and their roles as stay-at-home mothers.  Do you think one is happier or more satisfied?

There's so much that the characters keep to themselves. What do you wish they had shared with one another?  Do you think an ability to better express themselves would have changed the outcome of the book?

Let us know what you think!

Friday, July 29, 2016

This month the Kilbourn Public Library Book Club is reading Deep Down Dark:  The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Hector Tobar.  The entire world watched what transpired above-ground during the grueling and long rescue of the Chilean miners in 2010, but the story of the miners' experiences below the Earth's surface--and the lives that led them there--was shared exclusively with Tobar.  According to Amazon this book is a "masterwork of narrative journalism--a riveting, at times shocking, emotionally textured account of a singular human event".

The prologue to Deep Down Dark describes the incredibly long commutes made by employees to reach the remote San Jose Mine.  No local jobs paid as well, so the pay was an incentive for miners.  What risks and personal sacrifices would you be willing to endure for a high wage?

What new information did you gain about those sixty-nine days of survival?  What details did Deep Down Dark provide that were absent from the 2010 media blitz?

Think about the many types of hunger described in the book, starting of course with hunger for food.  What other cravings did the miners face, deprived of power, their families, and a way out?  What would your coping strategies have been?

How did the miners retain their individuality while they were trapped?  Which of their personal stories resonated with you the most?

From the millionaire Leonardo Farkas's fund to the miners' decision to form Propiedad Intelectual Minera, S.A. (Miner Intellectual Property, Inc.), how has the miners' financial well-being been dealt with?  Did it surprise you that not all of the miners accepted pensions?

Let us know what you think of Deep Down Dark.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Kilbourn Public Library Book Club is reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler for the July book selection.  From the author of The Jane Austen Book Club, the story of an American family, middle class in middle America, ordinary in every way but one.  But that exception is the beating heart of this extraordinary novel. 


Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and our narrator, Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle.  She has her reasons.  "I spent the first eighteen years of my life defined by this one fact:  that I was raised with a chimpanzee," she tells us.  "It's never going to be the first thing I share with someone.  I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren't thinking of her as my sister.  But until Fern's expulsion, I'd scarcely known a moment alone.  She was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half, and I loved her as a sister."


The Miami Herald says "this brave, bold, shattering novel reminds us what it means to be human, in the best and worst sense."


Rosemary recounts many memories of the chimpanzee Fern and their brief life together.  How were she and Fern, in the language of the novel, "Same" and "NotSame"?  What does their relationship suggest about the compatibility of humans and primates?  How are humans different from other animals?


How did being co-raised with a chimpanzee impact Rosemary's development?  In what ways was she different from other, "normal" children?  How does she still differ from them to this day?


Consider Rosemary's father and mother.  Are they good parents?  Should they have handled Fern's leaving any differently?  If so, how?


What is your opinion of Rosemary's brother, Lowell Cooke?  Are his extreme views and actions at all justified?  Does he truly have Fern's well-being at heart?


Think about the significance of memory and storytelling in the novel.  How is Rosemary's memory--and consequently, her narrative--affected by the emotional trauma she has experienced?


Do you think that Rosemary comes to find peace with her family history by the end of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves?


Is animal experimentation ever justified?  If so, under what circumstances?


 Let us know what you think of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.