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.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The book selection for May for the Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.


"A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be."


In Tokyo, 16-year-old Nao has decided there's only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates' bullying.  But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who's lived more than a century.  A diary is Nao's only solace--and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine.


Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox--possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami.  As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao's drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.


Full of Ozeki's signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.


How does Ozeki seem to view the relationship between a writer and her reader?  What do they owe each other?  How must they combine in order to, in Nao's phrase, "make magic."?


Is there a way in which Nao and Ruth form two halves of the same character?


Suicide, whether in the form of Haruki #1's kamikaze mission or the contemplated suicides of Haruki #2 and Nao, hangs heavily over A Tale for the Time Being.  Nevertheless, Ozeki's story manages to affirm life.  How does Ozeki use suicide as a means to illustrate the value of life?


Responding to the ill treatment that Nao reports in her diary, Ruth's husband Oliver observes, "We live in a bully culture".  Is he right?  What responses to society's bullying does A Tale for the Time Being suggest?  Are they likely to be effective?


What lessons does Jiko try to teach Nao to develop her "supapawa"?  Are they the same that you would try to impart to a troubled teenaged girl?  How else might you approach Nao's depression and other problems?


Let us know what you think of A Tale for the Time Being.

Friday, February 24, 2017


For the March book selection the Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is reading The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin. 



For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight.  Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family.  There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic.  Enthralled by Charles's assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her.  But she is wrong.  Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever.



Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century--from the late twenties to the mid-sixties--and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator's Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage--revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows.  With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure. 


One of the recurring themes is how Anne will choose to remember Charles.  How do you think she concludes to remember him by the end?  How does it change?


Anne's father says,  "and there's Anne.  Reliable Anne.  You never change, my daughter."  How does Anne change over the course of this novel?  Or does she?


Compare the celebrity of the Lindbergh's to the celebrity couples of today.  What current celebrities do Charles and Anne remind you of most?


Do you  think Charles and Anne were in love?  Why or why not?  Did that change over time?


Is Anne a hero?  Why or why not?


Let us know what you think of The Aviator's Wife.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is reading Three Junes by Julia Glass for the February book selection.  Julia Glass's National Book Award-winning novel is fundamentally a story of family, and of the way that the bonds of love can also become barriers between individuals longing to connect.  But Three Junes also spans the final decade of the 20th century, and woven into the story of the Scots-American McLeods is a penetrating look at the circumstances of contemporary life.

Julia Glass is also a painter.  How do the style, structure, and descriptive passages of Three Junes reflect her artistic sensibility?  How do the various segments, stories and flashbacks work within the chronological text? 

Why does Paul, the steady shepherd of his family and newspaper, go to Greece first on vacation and then to live?  Do you think he really wanted to "drop (his memories) like stones, one by one, in the sea" (pg. 49)?

Part Two is titled "Upright."  Why?  Is uprightness a positive or negative characteristic?  Which characters are upright in the novel?  Who is not?

How does food--its smells, textures, and tastes--weave its way into all three parts of the novel?  Why does the author vividly spell out the menus and recipes for us at all the critical meals?  Which dishes are most memorable?

Let us know what you think of Three Junes.

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.