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.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Kilbourn Public Library Book Club is reading All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani for the June book selection.  In this spectacular saga as radiant, thrilling, and beguiling as Hollywood itself, Adriana Trigiani takes us back to Tinsel Town's golden age--an era as brutal as it was resplendent--and into the complex and glamorous world of a young actress hungry for fame and success.

Brimming with larger-than-life characters, both real and fictional--including stars Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, David Niven, Hattie McDaniel and more--it is the unforgettable story of one of cinema's greatest love affairs during the golden age of American movie making.

What made the Golden Age of Hollywood and the films it produced so alluring?  Why were the films particularly popular during the Great Depression?

Loretta is drawn to the movies at the age of four when she first appears in one. What compels her to such work?  What characteristics make her such a successful actress even well beyond the age when women usually struggled to work in Hollywood?

Examine the powerful and extensive relationship between Loretta and Clark Gable.  What is each drawn to in the other?  In what ways is their romance typical of or different from many in Hollywood at the time?  What limits the relationship?  What might explain the longevity despite these limits?

How is each of the men significant to Loretta----Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, David Niven--similar or different?  Why are there so few good husbands and fathers among the men of Hollywood?

What's the nature of being a fan of a movie star?  What does such a relationship provide despite its one-sided nature?  At what point might being a fan be unhealthy?

Let us know what you thing about All the Stars in the Heavens.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

This month the book club will be reading Vanessa Diffenbaugh's novel The Language of Flowers.  A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past. 

After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, Victoria Jones is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.  Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them.  But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what's been missing in her life.  And when she's forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it's worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

What potential do Elizabeth, Renata, and Grant see in Victoria that she has a hard time seeing in herself?

While Victoria has been hungry and malnourished often in her life, food ends up meaning more than just nourishment to her. Why?

One of the major themes in The Language of Flowers  is forgiveness and second chances--do you think Victoria deserves one after the things she did (both as a child and as an adult)?  What about Catherine? And Elizabeth?

The novel touches on many different themes (love, family, forgiveness, second chances).  Which do you think is most important?  And what did you think was ultimately the lesson?

At the end of the novel, Victoria learns that moss grows without roots. What does this mean, and why is it such a revelation for her?

Knowing what you now know about the language of the flowers, to whom would you send a bouquet and what would you want it to say?

Let us know what you think of The Language of Flowers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is reading Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee for the March book selection.  This landmark novel is set two decades after Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Maycomb, Alabama.  Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch--"Scout"-- returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus.  Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her.  Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee.  Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion and humor. 

Maycomb is a town without train service, and its bus service "was erratic and seemed to go nowhere."  How does this lack of connection isolate the citizens of Maycomb, and how does that isolation affect how they see themselves and outsiders? 

Think about the extended Finch family. What is their status in Maycomb?  What is the significance of being a Finch in this small Southern town?  Does it afford them privileges--as well as expectations of them and responsibilities--that other families do not share?  Do the Finches have freedoms that others do not enjoy?

Think about the relationship between Jean Louise and Atticus at the beginning of the novel.  Does Jean Louise idealize her father too much?  How does she react when she discovers that her father is a flawed human being? 

How have our attitudes about race evolved since the 1950s when Go Set a Watchman was written?  In what ways have we progressed?  Is the stain of racism indelible in our national character, or can it eventually be erased?  Can it be eradicated for good?

Consider the novel's title, Go Set a Watchman.  What is its significance?  Why do you think Harper Lee chose this as her title for the book?

Let us know what you think of Go Set a Watchman.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

For February the Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is reading The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. 

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day's journey from the coast.  To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. 

Years later, after two miscarriages and one still birth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby's cries on the wind.  A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.  Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately.  But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast.  Against Tom's judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy.  When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world.  Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman's mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel's decision to keep this "gift from God."  And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another's tragic loss.

Why do you think the author selected the title, The Light Between Oceans, for this novel?

Think about the impact of living in seclusion on both Tom and Isabel.  Why do you think each of them is drawn to Janus Rock?  Do you think, in the moments when we are unobserved, we are different people?

Tom believes that rules are vital, that they are what keep a man from becoming a savage.  Do you agree with him?

Which characters won your sympathy and why?  Did this change over the course of the novel?  Did your notion of what was best or right shift in the course of your reading?

What did you think of the conclusion of the novel?  What emotions did you feel at the story's end?  Did it turn out as you expected?  Were you satisfied?

Let us know what you think of The Light Between Oceans.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The January book selection for the Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. 

Nick Hornby mines the hearts and psyches of four lost souls who connect just when they’ve reached the end of the line.

In four distinct and riveting first-person voices, Hornby tells a story of four individuals confronting the limits of choice, circumstance, and their own mortality. This is a tale of connections made and missed, punishing regrets, and the grace of second chances.

Each character's voice attempts to offer insight into the meaning of life and death.  Does any one character do this better than the others?  Are older people necessarily smarter than younger people when it comes to the philosophy of living?

Are the characters likeable?  Is it important that we like them in order to enjoy and/or understand the story?  Which character did you like or at least empathize with the most?  The least? Why?

What does this story teach us about what defines friends and family?  Do the characters become friends?

Let us know what you think of A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby.
For December the Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is again reading a selection of Holiday Books.  Each person will pick a Holiday Book they would like to read and we will have a short discussion on the books.

We will also be watching the movie Rebecca based on the book by the same name that we read for our October book selection.

Let us know if you have a favorite old or new Holiday Book that you enjoyed.
The Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group read the Go Big Read Book Selection Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson for the November book.

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Just Mercy begins with information about Bryan Stevenson growing up poor in a racially segregated community in Delaware.  He remembers his grandmother telling him,  "You can't understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan.  You have to get close".  How does Stevenson get close to the incarcerated people he is helping?  How does getting close to Walter McMillian affect Stevenson's life?  Can you be an effective criminal lawyer without getting close?

As a result of his extensive work with low income and incarcerated people, Stevenson concludes that "the opposite of poverty is not wealth:  the opposite of poverty is justice".  What does this statement mean?  What examples in the book inform Stevenson's position on poverty and justice?  What is justice?  What does "Just Mercy" mean?

Many United States citizens will find this book painful to read, demoralizing and even shameful.  What kind(s) of emotional state(s) did the book bring up in you?  Is this a book about combating racism?  What do you think this book is about?