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, December 19, 2017

The Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is reading Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen for the January 2018 book selection.  For generations the Millers have lived in Miller's Valley.  Mimi Miller tells about her life with intimacy and honesty.  As Mimi eavesdrops on her parents and quietly observes the people around her, she discovers more and more about the toxicity of family secrets, the dangers of gossip, the flaws of marriage, the inequalities of friendship and the risks of passion, loyalty, and love.  Home, as Mimi begins to realize, can be "a place where it's just as easy to feel lost as it is to feel content."

Miller's Valley is a masterly study of family, memory, loss, and, ultimately, discovery, of finding true identity and a new vision of home.  As Mimi says, "No one ever leaves the town where they grew up, even if they go."  Miller's Valley reminds us that the place where you grew up can disappear, and the people in it too, but all will live on in your heart forever.  (From the publisher.)

How would you describe Mimi as the book opens, and how does she change over the course of the novel?  What does she come to learn, as she matures, about place and home?

Why is Mimi so tied to the valley? Is her reluctance merely a childish fear to move beyond a familiar world?  Or is it something else?

The book asks an important question about how closely our identities are tied to our origins, both place and family.  Do we change when we adapt to new experiences and when we lose what we treasure?  Do we ever really leave the past behind us?

Let us know what you think!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

It's December already!  This is the month to read a Holiday Book.  Stop in the library and check out a holiday book you have never read or an old favorite. The Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group wishes you Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The book selection for the Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group for November is Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance.  Hillbilly Elegy is the UW-Madison Go Big Read selection for 2017-2018.  Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis--that of white working-class Americans. J.D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.  A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures,  this is the story of how upward mobility really feels. 

In what way is the Appalachian culture described in Hillbilly Elegy a "culture in trouble"? 

What are the positive values of the culture Vance talks about in the book?

The author's mother is arguably the book's most powerful figure.  How would you describe her and her struggle with addiction?  How did the violence between her own parents, Mamaw and Papaw, affect her own adulthood?

Critics of Hillbilly Elegy accuse Vance of "blaming the victim" rather than providing a sound analysis of the structural issues left unaddressed by government.  What do you think?

What does this book bring to the national conversation about poverty--its roots and its persistence?

Let us know what you think!

Friday, October 13, 2017

The book selection for the Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group for October is Moonglow by Michael Chabon.  This is a novel of truth and lies, family legends, and existential adventure---and the forces that work to destroy us. 

In 1989, fresh from the publication of his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon traveled to his mother's home in Oakland, California, to visit his terminally ill grandfather.  Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession of a man the narrator refers to only as "my grandfather." 

It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and marriage and desire, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at midcentury, and, above all, of the destructive impact--and the creative power--of keeping secrets and telling lies.

A lie that tells the truth, a work of fictional nonfiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow is Chabon at his most moving and inventive. (From the publisher.)

The idea of storytelling provides the novel's frame.  Its opening words, "This is how I heard the story," are echoed in its closing sentence, in which the dying grandfather is imagined "sculling along the surface of the sea of pain a little nearer to his story's end or maybe...toward the story on the opposite shore that was waiting to begin."  (pg 428)  Why does the grandfather urge the narrator to "write it down" at the end of the book?

Many readers and even reviewers have taken Moonglow at face value as a memoir.  How did you feel about the novel's form of a false memoir.  Did you find it unsettling?  What are the expectations that you bring to a memoir and fiction?

How does the grandfather's admiration for, and disillusionment with Wernher von Braun impact the novel?  What happens to the grandfather's rage when he finally meets Wernher von Braun?

What are the assumptions and beliefs that the narrator brings when he speaks with his grandfather?  How and why do they change over the course of the novel?

What do you think is the significance of the novel's title?  What is the significance of the recurring motif of the moon?

Let us know what you think of Moonglow.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The book selection for September for the Kilbourn Public Library Book Discussion Group is Except for His Wings by Michael Dodd.  Michael lives in Madison, Wisconsin but grew up in Texas.  Michael is a past employee and volunteer at the Kilbourn Public Library.  We are excited to be reading his newest book.

Corny Shane is a recovering alcoholic trying to rebuild his shattered life in the Texas Hill Country after his wife abandoned him and their children.  One day his eleven-year-old daughter comes home with a story about a boy with wings who appeared in the town park.  Except for His Wings  is the story of the turmoil his appearance creates in the small town of Blakesfield, a story of uncertainty and confusion, of old wounds and new fears, of sorrow and of hope. 

How did you experience this book?  Were you engaged immediately or did it take you a while to "get into it"? 

Describe the main characters.  Do the main characters change or mature by the end of the book?  What do they learn about themselves?

What main ideas and themes does the author explore?

Where there any passages that strike you as insightful, even profound?

Is the ending satisfying?  If so, why?  If not, why not....and how would you change it?

If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask?

Let us know what you think of Except for His Wings.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Kilbourn Public Library's Book Club selection for August is the novel The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows.  This novel is set in 1938 and follows the story of Layla Beck, who is cut off from her allowance and demanded by her father, a US Senator, to find a job with the Federal Writers' Project, a New Deal jobs program.  Within days, Layla finds herself far out of her comfort zone when she is assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia. 

The author evokes the charm and eccentricity of a small town in this story filled with extraordinary characters.  The novel brings to life an inquisitive young girl, her beloved aunt, and the alluring visitor who changes the course of their destiny forever.

Early in the novel, Willa resolves to acquire the virtues of "ferocity and devotion."  Do you concur that these are, actually, virtues?  Which of the characters in The Truth According to Us possesses them?  Do you know anyone who does?

The Truth According to Us is set in a small town where everyone seems to know everyone else.  Have you ever lived in a situation like that?  Would you find living in Macedonia appealing or stifling?  With our multiple forms of instantaneous communication, it could be said that the entire world has become a small town.  Do you agree?  Do you think we live in a more or less anonymous world now?

At one point, Willa's Uncle Emmett advises her "Don't ask questions if you're not going to like the answers."  He clarifies that she should ask herself whether the answer could endanger something that's precious to her, and if so, refrain from asking.  Willa ignores his advice entirely, but would it have been better--for her and everyone else--if she had taken it?  Have you ever regretted your own curiosity?

Of all the characters in The Truth According to Us, with whom do you most identify and why?

The Truth According to Us is broken up into multiple different perspectives, blending young and old voices with epistolary fragments and flashbacks.   How do these varied viewpoints contribute to characterization and development in the story?  How do they deepen our connection to these characters?

Let us know what you think of The Truth According to Us.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The July book selection for the Kilbourn Public Library Book Club is Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.  This book by Mary Roach chronicles the compelling, and sometimes very humorous, use of the human body after one has passed on.  For over two-thousand years, cadavers have been involved in some of science's greatest, and sometimes strangest, undertakings. 

In this fascinating, ennobling account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and, in so doing, tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.

In her introduction to Stiff, Mary Roach remarks that "death makes us helplessly polite."  Why is it that we're compelled to use polite language when discussing death?  Why are we often afraid to discuss it in the way Roach has done here?

Many research studies that make use of cadavers raise questions about maintaining the dignity of the deceased.  For example, a ballistics study might involve decapitating a cadaver or shooting one in the face--all for the sake of gathering data to ensure that innocent civilians who are hit in the face with nonlethal bullets won't suffer disfiguring fractures.  Do you think that the humanitarian benefits of experimenting on cadavers can outweigh any potential breach of respect for the dead?  Why or why not?

The heart, cut from the chest, can keep beating on its own for as long as a minute or two.  This, Roach says, reflects centuries of confusion over how exactly to define death.   Have modern scientific experiments on cadavers helped us to pinpoint the precise moment when life ceases to exist and all that's left is a corpse?

Roach says, "On a rational level, most people are comfortable with the concept of brain death and organ donation. But on an emotional level, they may have a harder time accepting it."  Some organ recipients even worry that they will take on certain characteristics of their donors. What might this say about how we link the physical human body to the human soul?

Roach concludes that "it makes little sense to try to control what happens to your remains when you are no longer around to reap the joys or benefits of that control."  Do you agree with her?

Let us know what you think of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

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.