Monthly Archives: August 2019

The Book Whisperer Discovers a New (to Her) Novelist

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I ran into a surprising block when I searched for Sarah Jio’s Web site. My McAfee AntiVirus protection blocked access. Since I trust McAfee’s judgment, I did not continue to the site, but I am curious!

I received a copy of All the Flowers in Paris by Sarah Jio through NetGalley. Jio is a completely new author to me. She has published a number of other books including The Violets of March which won a Library Journal Best Book of 2011, The Bungalow Blackberry Winter which was “an instant New York Times and USA Today bestseller.

I also saw that Christina Baker Kline, a favorite author, wrote, “Sarah Jio weaves past and present in this eminently readable novel about love, gratitude, and forgiveness. I tore through the pages.” Kline’s recommendation drew me to read All the Flowers in Paris.

Admittedly, I have been reading a great deal of fiction and nonfiction set in WWII: The Nightingale, The Zookeeper’s Wife (a reread), Girl in the Blue Coat, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, and The Orphan’s Tale (another reread).

I also like stories that intertwine the past and the present, often told by two narrators from those two time periods.

In present day, Caroline finds herself in a hospital in Paris with no memory of the past. A nagging feeling of danger keeps her alert to her surroundings and those around her.   Then a mystery of the past serves to distract Caroline from her fears when she discovers a cache of letters in her apartment.

The letters are from WWII and the Nazi-occupied Paris. Celine, a young widow of Jewish ancestry, must save her daughter and she hopes herself from a brutal  Nazi officer who discovers her secret.

What could a modern Caroline have in common with Celine, a young Jewish woman in WWII? Sarah Jio takes readers on a distressing ride through pain, terror, and danger. What will the outcome be? The way to discover all these secrets is to read All the Flowers in Paris!

The Book Whisperer Rediscovers Julie Kibler

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Some time ago, I read Calling me Home by Julie Kibler, a book recommended by my friend Theresa. I thoroughly enjoyed Calling me Home. I initially became interested in Home for Erring and Outcast Girls because my friend Sue suggested I request it from NetGalley to review. Then I noted the author, so my interest increased.

Kibler bases Home for Erring and Outcast Girls on a real home for unwed mothers: Berachah Industrial Home for the Redemption of Erring Girls. In Arlington, TX, Rev James and Maggie Upchurch started the home in 1903. Its mission was to help homeless, usually pregnant, women. Berachah sets itself apart from other homes of its type in a significant way. It did not require the women to give up their babies.

In fact, women learned parenting skills and job skills so they could take care of themselves and their children. That is a significant departure from other homes with so-called helping attitudes.

Kibler has taken the real place and given readers a story of heartbreak and redemption. She provides the back story of Lizzie Bates and Mattie McBride, residents at Berachah with their children. Readers follow their friendship and come to care for the characters deeply.

Then Kibler takes readers on another path 100 years later when Cate Sutton, a university librarian, discovers the history of women who lived at Berachah.

Like many other readers, I enjoy a story that takes me back to another time and yet relates to the present as well. Kibler has created a moving story about women and children.

Julie Kibler’s Web site, https://juliekibler.com/, includes a wealth of information about Kibler and about her work. She encourages book clubs to contact her for telephone visits or by Skype or Facetime. Interested readers can also sign up for her newsletter.

The Book Whisperer Discovers Abbi Waxman

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The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is an intriguing title to a reader; at least, to me it certainly is! I began reading The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman on Saturday. By late Saturday night, I had finished it. The story is fun, a bit predictable in spots, but not enough to destroy the pleasure of reading the complete story.

College graduate Nina Hill is 30, single, and working in a bookstore in Los Angeles in Larchmont. Waxman describes Larchmont as “a neighborhood like any other, but it boasts a forest of trees, planted generously along semi-winding streets that look like they were lifted wholesale from a Capra movie, and were actually planted at once in the 1920s.”

Nina’s backstory is problematic. Candace, her mother, is a world-renowned journalist originally from Australia, but who travels the world seeking stories. When Nina is an infant, Candace takes Nina along and puts her to sleep in dresser drawers in hotel rooms. No mention is made of who is taking care of baby Nina when mom is interviewing people for stories.

When Nina “got inconveniently big and wriggly, Candace found a nice apartment in LA and an even nicer nanny, and left Nina to get on with the business of growing up.” Louise, the nanny, loves Nina as her own child. Certainly, Nina spends much more time with Louise than with her own mother who shows up three or four times a year “bringing gifts and strange candy and smelling of airports.”

After Nina graduates from college, Louise moves back South to help raise her own grandchildren. Thus, Nina is essentially alone now because her mother is still traveling the globe and reporting on stories.

One predictable ploy lies in the use of the bookstore as Nina’s workplace, but also a meeting place for other characters. Not only that, the bookstore is in financial trouble. Liz, the owner, has not been paying the rent because she is not making enough money. She calls the building’s owner Mephistopheles.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is full of references to books, characters, and scenes from books. Readers will enjoy those references. And Nina, the person who thinks she enjoys solitude and being alone, discovers she is more social than she realized. Of course, Nina must have a love interest and must be foolish enough to ditch the one man who really appeals to her. Will he come back? Can Liz save the bookstore?

Here, I should include one other mention of a predictable storyline that takes an unusual twist. Nina has never known who her father is; her mother always said it didn’t matter. As it turns out, Candace had told the father about Nina’s existence, but she required him to sign legal documents saying he would have no contact with Nina. Candace asked for no child support either.

Lawyer Sarkassian shows up at the bookstore looking for Nina. He tells her father William Reynolds, a wealthy man, has died and has included her in his will. At that point, I expect Nina to inherit a pile of money and use it to buy Liz’s bookstore and turn it into a profitable business. To avoid any spoilers, though, I will say that is not exactly what happens.

Nina who has sometimes longed for siblings and a father discovers on her father’s death that she has “three sisters and a brother, two nephews and two nieces, and two great-nieces and a great-nephew.” A good portion of the story involves getting to know these new relatives. Some of them are accepting while Lydia in particular calls Nina “a moneygrubbing millennial pretender.”

Abbi Waxman who now lives in Los Angeles was born in England. Her father “ran off to buy cigarettes and never came back.” Perhaps his leaving gives Waxman the germ of the story here about Candace, Nina’s mother. Waxman dedicates The Bookish Life of Nina Hill to her stepfather: “For my stepfather, Joh, who came late to the party, but stayed to clean up. I love and respect you with all my heart.”

Waxman’s prose is sharp and witty and full of references to books and occasionally other trivia since Nina is part of a trivia group calling itself “Book ‘Em, Danno.” On her Web site, http://abbiwaxman.com/, readers can find more about Waxman and her other novels. She also encourages readers to contact her.

The Book Whisperer Reviews a Stunning Debut Novel

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Once again my friend Theresa has steered me to a book I have found fascinating and can recommend wholeheartedly: The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis. The story is set in Bound, South Carolina, in the present-day with narrator Judith Kratt, 75, harkening back to her youth in memory to give readers the complete story.

If I am pressed, I will admit that Southern authors are my favorites. In no particular order, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Carson McCullers, Margaret Mitchell, Alice Walker, and Kate Chopin come quickly to mind. These authors tell stories that remind me of family stories and of the way of telling the story. Rarely straightforward, each story ambles on its way with tidbits thrown in to explain or further enhance the main story. Or sometimes to go completely off track onto another path only to wander back to the original story after all.

Jim Hartz interviewed Eudora Welty for the Today Show on 6 Feb 1976. Welty “describes growing up in a culture that ‘relished’ storytelling.” She further explained that “growing up in Mississippi, in Jackson, is good for any writer because we are a nation of talkers, listeners, and storytellers. And when you live in a small town where you know everybody you get it all.” She continues by saying storytelling is “unique to the South maybe.” She hedges a bit there, but we know Southerners do love telling stories. Of course, other areas of the country and other cultures do too.

Pat Conroy, a South Carolina native, weighed in on Southern storytellers: “Every region has their oddballs, for sure. But in the South, we embrace our oddballs and listen to their tales.”

My heart is still pounding fifteen minutes after finishing the last page of The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt. While I will not include spoilers, it will not surprise readers to learn that long-kept family secrets will come to light as Miss Judith faces the past her family has lived.

Having grown up in a very small town populated with many of my relatives, I am aware of secrets long-held. One of those family secrets came to light last year when I had my DNA analyzed through Ancestry.com. I discovered my cousin’s daughter who had been adopted at birth sixty years ago in a closed adoption. That discovery resulted a cousins’ family reunion and an opportunity to meet our newly-found cousin. Sadly, her mother has died, but she did get to meet her two aunts and a whole passel of cousins.

This review will include no spoilers. Let me say, though, that I hate Daddy Kratt even though he was long dead when the story opens. He is a thoroughly despicable character and I still feel a visceral hatred and repulsion when I think of him. He is the archetypal bully, villain, and miscreant all rolled into one person. Caring only for himself and what he can amass in money and goods, Daddy Kratt rolled over everyone and everything in his path exactly like a bulldozer without caring about the consequences as long as he got what he wanted.

And Daddy Kratt succeeded—for a time. He owned cotton gins, many acres of land, a fine home, a store, and a gas station. He even pushed Mr. Delour, his own father-in-law into bankruptcy and never looked back. Mr. Delour had mentored Daddy Kratt when Daddy Kratt was a young man working toward amassing his fortune. None of that means a thing to a miscreant, however.

In the present-day, Judith lives in the family home, now in some disrepair as fortunes have fallen long ago, with Olva, a Black woman only slightly older than Judith. The two have been together all their lives. Judith’s brother Quincey, age 14, died from “a fatal gunshot to his person in the early hours of Friday, December 20, 1929.” This news is related to readers at the beginning of the book.

Then Bobotis works backward and forward to complete the story. Judith and Quincey’s younger sister is Rosemarie, named for their mother, also Rosemarie. Other important characters include Dee, Rosemarie’s only sibling, Charlie who works at the store and repairs all things including mechanical ones, Marcus, and Amaryllis. A few other townspeople enter the story as well.

Bobotis writes with a delicate use of the language. Olva, holding a shotgun on a nasty white man from Bound, says, “I will tell you a thing or two about tension. I will tell you that we did not create it. You did. You merely have not felt it until now. Understand this—for me, for Marcus—for [Amaryllis], tension lives under the surface of everything. We feel the itch of it under our skin. But we sill rise from that tension. Agitation is what sheds the snake of its skin, what shucks the moth of its cocoon.”

One cannot read those lines and not feel the passion. To whom is she referring when she uses we?

Near the end of the book, Miss Judith Kratt asks Marcus to take her to her lawyer’s office. What Judith takes in “an old, distinguished piece of Daddy Kratt’s luggage,” will surprise readers. The suitcase contained the following items: “pickled okra (one jar). Wray Little’s rum apple butter (one jar, already opened), a sleeve of saltines, four butterscotch candies, my social security card, and an antique brass teacher’s bell, which I thought would be useful in an emergency.”

Andrea Bobotis has received a number of awards for her debut novel, The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt. After reading it, I can see why it has received such acclaim. Discover more about Bobotis at her Web site: https://www.andreabobotis.com/.

The Book Whisperer Takes a Book Challenge

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I discovered List Challenges, http://www.listchallenges.com, recently. And what a rabbit hole that site has taken me down. Readers can challenge themselves with a variety of lists: travel, movies, books, food, and other. Other provides a potpourri of topics such as “76 Best Board Games of All Time,” “Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Albums of All Time,” and “Classic Television Shows.” To see the full list, go to the site listed above and click “other.”

On the List Challenges site, users can create a free account and keep track of the lists they have marked and they can also generate their own lists. Hence, users will see lists such as “Bettina’s Bucket List – Because Time is Short,” “Summer Bucket List,” and “Julia’s Bucket List.”

Quite naturally, my eye fell on the topic of “books” with its 14,811 challenges. The challenge here is to choose one or two to examine and then return another time to further scrutinize the topics.

I first selected “BBC’s Top 100 Books You Need to Read Before You Die.” The titles are in no particular order. I was struck by The Catcher in the Rye situated next to The Time Traveler’s Wife and followed by Middlemarch.

Some of my favorite books are on the list. At the top of my favorites is To Kill a Mockingbird. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is another favorite. I am glad to see A Confederacy of Dunces on the list because it is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.

Books I have not read and would like to read include Watership Down, A Town Like Alice, and Remains of the Day.

Here are the results of my challenge. I was honest and did not check a series if I had read only one of the books!

More lists challenges await.

The Book Whisperer Invites Readers to the 2019 Books Sandwiched In series at Central Library

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Today’s blog takes a new turn in that I am not reviewing a single book, but I’m promoting the Books Sandwiched In fall 2019 series. The book reviews are held at the Central Library, downtown Tulsa in Aaronson Auditorium. The reviews begin at 12:10 PM on Mondays and end at 12:50 PM. This year, there are two exceptions. The first review will be at Marshall Brewery, 6th & Utica, at 6:00 PM because Central Library (and, in fact, all libraries) is closed for a day of staff development. The second exception occurs on Nov 12 which is a Tuesday since the libraries are closed for Veterans’ Day on Monday, Nov 11. The time remains the same for this review: 12:10 – 12:50 PM. The complete schedule is listed at the end of this blog.

Guests are encouraged to bring their lunch and listen to the book reviews. Bring a friend or two along to enjoy the reviews as well. Starbucks, located on the first floor of Central Library, is the only library-owned Starbucks in the US. Money made over expenses goes to help fund library programs. Thus, purchasing food and drinks from the Central Library Starbucks helps support the library system.

Mon, Oct 14, 6:00 PM, Marshall Brewery: John Carreyou details in Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup the story of Theranos and its founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes. Holmes promoted a radical idea that a single drop of blood could determine any number of diseases. Through the use of a machine installed in pharmacies, people could have a drop of blood drawn to give them quick, accurate test results. Sadly, the idea does not work, but Holmes raised more than $9 billion to fund her project until the whole company collapsed. Carreyou has written a true story that reads like a fast-paced thriller.

Mon, Oct 21, 12:10-12:50 PM: The Book Whisperer reviewed The Library Book by Susan Orlean on 25 Nov 2018. See the complete review there. Susan Orlean has written a captivating book about the Los Angeles Library fire in 1984. To explain the full extent of the fire and its aftermath, Orlean also provides a history of the library system in Los Angeles and how critical the library is to the well-being of a city and its people.

Mon, Oct 28, 12:10-12:50 PM: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is another book the Book Whisperer reviewed; this one on 15 Mar 2019. Owens has written a coming of age story combined with a mystery and wrapped in nature. Where the Crawdads Sing is a must read.

Mon, Nov 4, 12:10-12:50 PM: Marie Benedict’s The Only Woman in the Room will be reviewed. Again, the Book Whisperer reviewed The Only Woman in the Room in this blog on 13 Apr 2019. Hedy Lamarr has long been known as a beautiful Hollywood star. In truth, she was a scientist.

Tues, Nov 12, 12:10-12:50 PM: Because the libraries are closed for Veterans’ Day on Monday, Nov 11, the review of Becoming by Michelle Obama and The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty by Susan Page will take place on a Tuesday. The review of two books by and about First Ladies is unprecedented. Michelle Obama and Barbara Bush both contributed much to the US during their tenures as First Ladies.

Mon, Nov 18, 12:10-12:50 PM: Meet me at the Museum by Anne Youngston is the kind of novel to read and reread. Told in the form of letters between Tina Hopgood, an English farm wife, and Anders Larsen, a museum director in Denmark, Meet me at the Museum chronicles the growing friendship between two strangers through the letters they exchange. The Book Whisperer reviewed Meet me at the Museum in this blog on 1 Feb 2019.

Mon, Nov 25, 12:10-12:50 PM: Recipient of the 2019 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award is Stacy Schiff. A review of her body of work will include an overview of such books as The Witches: Salem, 1692, Cleopatra: A Life, and A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America. Such acclaimed authors as David McCullough, another Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author recipient, praise Schiff’s writing as “brilliant from start to finish.”

2019 Books Sandwiched In Book Reviews

12:10-12:50 PM, Aaronson Auditorium, Central Library (two exceptions, noted with **)

Bring your lunch and bring a friend or two to enjoy these book reviews.

Oct 14**: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (held in the evening at Marshall Brewery, 6th & Utica. The library is closed for staff development that day.)

Oct 21: The Library Book by Susan Orlean  (Monday marks the beginning of National Friends of the Library Week, so the review celebrates libraries.)

Oct 28: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Nov 4: The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

Nov 12**: (TUESDAY because the library is closed for Veterans’ Day Nov 11): Becoming by Michelle Obama and The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty by Susan Page 

Nov 18: Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngston

Nov 25: Overview of the work of Stacy Schiff, the 2019 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author recipient

The Book Whisperer Re-examines The Orphan’s Tale

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I had read The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff some time ago for a book club. Another book club chose The Orphan’s Tale for the August book to discuss. It had been long enough that I needed to reread the book, and I am glad I did. I had forgotten some important details. I thoroughly enjoyed The Orphan’s Tale the second time around.

Jenoff leads readers on an interesting journey by beginning in the prologue with the present day and a 90-year-old unnamed woman who slips out of her nursing home in Florida to fly to Paris to see a circus exhibit: Two Hundred Years of Circus Magic. Now, why would this woman risk such a daring escape from her nursing home, telling no one?

Chapter One takes readers back to Germany, 1944. Each chapter is narrated by either by Noa, a sixteen-year-old girl cast out of her Dutch home, or Astrid, a Jewish circus performer from a long-time circus family now hiding in plain sight in a German, non-Jewish circus.

Noa has been sent away by her family because she became pregnant by a German soldier who was long gone from the area when Noa realized she was pregnant. Most likely, the pregnancy would not have mattered to the soldier anyway. Noa’s furious parents send her to a home where she lives until she gives birth to a baby boy. She is allowed to hold the baby only once before he is snatched away, never to be seen again.

Knowing she cannot return home, Noa finds a job as cleaner at a railroad station where she receives a tiny cubical in the attic fitted with an old mattress as a place to live. One snowy evening, she walks past a railroad car and sees it is full of infants, some of whom have no clothing, some are already dead and others are clearly nearly dead. On an impluse she cannot explain, she plucks one of the babies from the train, a baby boy.

Noa’s action of taking the baby sets her on a journey that will endanger her and the infant. She knows she must flee the railroad station in the freezing cold and snow. She has nothing but the clothes on her back which includes a thin coat. She wraps the baby as best she can, discovering when she cleans him up in the railway station bathroom that the baby is Jewish because he has been circumsised. Thus, she will be in even greater danger with a Jewish baby even though she is the ideal Aryan with blonde hair.

Noa falls in unconscious in the snow with the baby. When she awakens, she finds herself taken in by the German circus in the area. There, she meets Astrid, another castaway the circus has taken in. Everyone must earn his/her keep in the circus, so Astrid reluctantly sets about teaching Noa the high wire acrobat act. Noa is quite as reluctant to learn since she has never even thought about being an high-wire acrobat.

Astrid and Noa enter into a wary relationship, each distrusting the other. Circumstances, particularly danger for both of them and for Theo, the little boy Noa has rescued, change turning the two into friends. Even then, the two have some misgivings about the other.

With the Nazis being ever-present, everyone who works in the circus must be on alert. Danger exists around every corner.

Jenoff weaves the tales told by the two narrators seamless so that readers discover the full picture. Readers will also realize a surprise at the end of the story if they have not already determined who the narrator of the prologue is.

Pam Jenoff has published 11 books. At her Web site, http://www.pamjenoff.com/, readers will find information on all of the novels along with questions to use in book clubs for discussion.

German circus ringmaster, Adolf Althoff, https://circustalk.com/news/how-a-german-circus-saved-a-jewish-family-of-circus-artists, saved Jewish performers by hiding them within his circus. Pam Jenoff researched Althoff’s circus and used some of that information in her novel. The picture below is from the article found in Circus Talk; see the URL above.

The Book Whisperer Reviews Visible Empire

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Many novels are based on real events. Hannah Pittard has taken the tragedy of a plane crash, 3 June 1962, in Paris that killed 103 of “Atlanta’s wealthiest residents” and created Visible Empire, a novel. The plane crashed on takeoff. The Atlanta residents on board were art patrons who had been on a month-long tour of art galleries across Europe. They had returned to Paris and following an evening of partying they were on their way home the next day. In all 130 people died in the crash which was caused by a mechanical failure. At the time, it was the worst single airplane crash recorded.

For The Atlanta Journal Constitution, on 5 June 2018, Mandi Albright wrote “Atlanta Arts Patrons Die in 1962 Paris Plane Crash,” an article looking back on the terrible accident. Read the full article at this link: https://www.ajc.com/news/local-govt–politics/ajc-archives-atlanta-arts-patrons-die-1962-paris-plane-crash/7h5pQ6sYWOvxrkkOGph7OM/.

Pittard has published four other novels. Visible Empire has received a number of honors including the following: an Amazon Editors’ Pick for Summer Fiction, an IndieNext List Pick, a New York Times “New and Noteworthy” Selection, an O Magazine Book of Summer, and one of Southern Living‘s Best New Books of Summer. Her previous novels also received high praise and awards. Discover more about Pittard and her work on her Web site: http://www.hannahpittard.com/. Currently, she leads the MFA program in creative writing at the U of KY.

Visible Empire employs the use of different voices to tell the story. This ploy annoys some readers, but I like the added perspective it gives readers. Instead of an omniscient narrator or a single narrator, Pittard gives readers five characters who tell the story of the crash’s impact and the deaths of those on board on those left behind in Atlanta.

The book opens with Robert’s story. Immediately, I found Robert to be an unsympathetic character. He learns his in-laws have died in the Paris crash. His mind, however, is on the death of another passenger on board, a young woman named Rita. Rita, a journalist, works with Robert and they have been having an affair for over a year. Meanwhile, Robert’s wife Lily is seven months into what is becoming a difficult pregnancy. Robert is also in debt and drinking heavily. So what does Robert do—and this information is no spoiler since it occurs in the first chapter—but leave his pregnant, vulnerable wife on the day she learns her parents have died in Paris.

Other narrators include Piedmont Dobbs, a young Black man; Lily, Robert’s wife; Anastasia, a grifter; Coleman, a wealthy n’er-do-well and drug addict; and Skylar, Anastasia’s newly reunited twin brother. Additionally, short chapters of one or two pages feature Ivan and Lulu, Atlanta’s mayor and his wife. Those short chapters are interspersed throughout the book.

All of these characters find themselves interwoven into a story beyond their control. Piedmont, Anastasia, and Skylar are unknown to the other characters until the accident. Their addition to the story completes the narrative. Without them, Visible Empire would be the story of wealth and privilege as well as loss. Yet, 1962 is a critical time in Atlanta and the US because of integration and racial unrest.

All of the narrators have stories to tell. Their stories all relate in one way or another to the plane crash because without it, all of these people would not come together. I found Visible Empire compelling enough to complete in a single sitting.

The Book Whisperer Examines a Book for Book Lovers

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My friend Judy sent me a copy of A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes. Publisher’s Weekly in a starred review calls A Gentle Maddness “an absolutely fascinating tale and an engrossing, essential book that no book lover should be without.” In 1995, A Gentle Madness was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award. Basbanes has received numerous awards for his writing of nonfiction books and articles for a variety of newspapers and magazines such as The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and The Smithsonian.

A Gentle Madness pays homage to book lovers, book collectors, and book history. Obviously, Basbanes tackled a monumental job in chronicling the history of books and their collectors. The book is 638 pages long with 39 pages of notes, an extensive bibliography consisting of another 37 pages, and finally an index of 25 pages.  A Gentle Madness is a scholarly work.

Basbanes has also included a number of illustrations to accompany his work. Sir Robert Cotton, 1571-1631, is noted as an “antiquary and collector.” Another picture of interest is of the statue of John Harvard, 1607-1638, “the Puritan clergyman whose gift of books established the first library to be formed in British North America.”

The chapter titles are intriguing. “Balm for the Soul,” “Rule Britannia,” “Brandy for Heroes,” and “Infinite Riches” will keep readers moving from one page to the next.

In Chapter 13, “The Blumberg Collection,” the first line spoken by FBI Special Agent W. Dennis Aiken will intrigue book lovers: “I really don’t know why you want to come out here. All you’re going to see is seven rooms stacked to the ceiling with old books.”

Clearly, I did not read all of A Gentle Madness. It is the kind of book one keeps on hand to dip into again and again and then to pass it along to another book lover as Judy has done.

Nicholas Basbanes maintains an extensive Web site: https://www.nicholasbasbanes.com/.

The Book Whisperer Read Wonder

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I am an avid reader and enjoy finding new books to read and recommend. I would not have read Wonder by R.J. Palacio if not for a book club to which I belong. I received the book at the last meeting; yet, I put off reading until the week of the book club—which meets this week. I did finish the book four days before the meeting. I can’t quite put my finger on why I was reluctant to read Wonder.

Once I started reading, I could hardly stop. I found myself caring about Auggie and wanting to know more about his friends. Clearly, his parents and his older sister love him deeply and see him as a little boy who needs extra care, but also that he is funny, smart, and mischievous. He loves Star Wars and playing games on his Xbox like many other boys his age. The difference is that Auggie was “born with a severe facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school.”

When Auggie is ready to go into fifth grade, he and his parents decide he will enter school for the first time instead of having his mother continue to homeschool him. They choose Beecher Prep. All three, Auggie, his mom, and his dad, struggle with the decision. They alternate between thinking it is a good idea and the worst idea possible. In the end, the decision to go to Beecher stands. Auggie reminds his parents they have told him he can stop going at any time. Perhaps that promise is one of the most important and one that keeps Auggie trying.

In order to help ease Auggie into a new experience, his parents set up a meeting at the school with the principal, Mr. Tushman, prior to the first day of school. Mr. Tushman also asks three students, Jack, Julian, and Charlotte, to come to the school that day and show Auggie around the classrooms. All four of the children are wary. Jack, Julian, and Charlotte want to show Auggie around the school and tell him about some of the teachers and other kids who will be his classmates, but they are uncertain how to react to the way Auggie looks. Auggie knows they will be put off by his appearance, so he is uneasy too.

Ultimately, Auggie decides he will attend Beecher Prep. He encounters the usual stares to which he has become accustomed. At least, he knows three of his classmates. At lunch, however, Auggie finds himself alone until Summer a girl in some of his classes sits with him. They talk about the other kids and how they are sitting alone. Summer starts a list of kids she and Auggie would ALLOW to sit with them. They first decide the kids should all have names to do with the summer season since they are Summer and August.

Summer’s act of kindness in sitting with Auggie starts the school year off well for Auggie. Also, Jack is in several of Auggie’s classes. Naturally, Auggie will experience ups and downs over the course of the school year.

Wonder begins with Auggie’s point of view, but Palacio switches to other children’s points of view to give readers a full perspective of what happens.

The Choose Kind movement developed out of Wonder. Many schools have adopted the book for multiple grades to read. Cities have also used Wonder as the community read.

Wonder was on the New York Times bestseller list for over five years. It also received many awards and has been made into a movie. Learn more about the book and find resources for discussing the book at https://wonderthebook.com/books.

Palacio also recommends teachers check out Mr. W’s Annotated Wonder: http://mrwreads.blogspot.com/. Mr. W created a number of video resources and has shared those on the Web.