Check It Out Category: Asked at the Desk

Asked at the Desk: Classic American Novels

Picture of Fiction/AV/Teen desk

When we receive the same question twice in one week, we take note! Here’s what two of your neighbors recently asked:

I haven’t read more than one or two of the classic American novels. Now I’m ready, but I don’t know which are most important. Also, do you have them as audiobooks?

We understand this can be overwhelming. Not only are there differing opinions about the most essential, there are different definitions of classic! Here we’ll suggest American classics in three categories to help you find your gateway.

Shorter American Classics

If delving into classic literature is new for you, try one that is not only short in length but also accessible in story and writing:

Great Gatsby book coverThe Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fahrenheit 451 book coverFahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury
John Steinbeck

 

American Classics by Authors of Color

Too many lists of classics limit the rosters to those authored by white men. Make the choice to invest in other perspectives.

Invisible Man book coverInvisible Man
Ralph Ellison
Their Eyes Were Watching God book coverTheir Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston
W.E.B. Du Bois

 

Most Cited American Classics

If your goal is to be familiar with books likely to be referenced in conversation or in other writing, here are three to know:

J.D. Salinger

 

Audiobooks are a great way to experience the classics! Let a talented voice actor bring great writing to life for you. Click for a sampling of American classics on audio. Lists of British classics and World classics are also available.

Interested in more suggestions? Stop by Fiction/AV/Teen Services on the second floor to ask at the desk yourself, or ask online to visit our virtual desk.

Asked at the Desk: Book Discussion Ideas for New (and Old) Groups

Picture of Fiction/AV/Teen desk

We love supporting book groups in any way we can! Recently, one of the requests we received for help was…

I’m looking for book ideas for the book discussion group I am just starting. We all have a lot of different tastes and we are in our late twenties and early thirties. What should we read?

We broke our suggestions down into four different categories to help the group choose. While every book group is different, some of our suggestions to this individual may strike ideas for your personal reading or your own discussions.

Modern Day Setting, Filled with Drama, Meaty Discussion Opportunities

The Nest book coverThe Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab after a drunken driving incident. The resulting accident has endangered the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.

 

 

 

Crazy Rich Asians book coverCrazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan 

Envisioning a summer vacation in the humble Singapore home of a boy she hopes to marry, Chinese American Rachel Chu is unexpectedly introduced to a rich and scheming family that strongly opposes their son’s relationship with an American girl. What Rachel doesn’t know is that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, she might as well have a target on her back.

 

 

Younger Person Striking Out on Their Own

sweetbitter book coverSweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Twenty-two, and knowing no one, Tess leaves home to begin her adult life in New York City. Thus begins a year that is both enchanting and punishing, in a low-level job at “the best restaurant in New York City.” Grueling hours and a steep culinary learning curve awaken her to the beauty of oysters, the finest Champagnes, the appellations of Burgundy. At the same time, she opens herself to friendships—and love—set against the backdrop of dive bars and late nights.

 

 

The Circle book coverThe Circle by Dave Eggers

Hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful Internet company, Mae Holland begins to question her luck as life beyond her job grows distant, a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, and her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public.

 

 

 

Favorites of 2016

The Mothers book coverThe Mothers by Brit Bennet

The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community – and the things that ultimately haunt us most. It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, 17-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance – and the subsequent cover-up – will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth.

 

 

Behold The Dreamers book coverBehold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy.

 

 

 

Suspense

All the Missing Girls book coverAll the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

A nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse. It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

 

 

the secret history book coverThe Secret History by Donna Tartt

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.

 

 

For book discussion how-to’s and questions check out our resource page! Interesting in having suggestions designed personally for your group? Email us at readers@mppl.org or talk to us at the Fiction/AV/Teen Services desk.

Asked at the Desk: Mean Girls and Frenemies Fiction

Picture of Fiction/AV/Teen deskWe adore when readers ask for themed suggestions, and this question from last week sent us on a fun scavenger hunt:

Do you know of any books with ‘mean girls’-type characters written for adults? I’m in the mood for something fun and snarky, but I like darker stories, too.

Absolutely! As we started collecting titles, we realized they come in different flavors and settings. Whether you are looking for characters living the high life, time-tested classics, dishy gossip, or chilling tales, there’s a frenemy story just for you…

Coworker Drama

Devil Wears Prada book coverThe Devil Wears Prada
Lauren Weisberger

Thrillingly Tense

Dare Me book coverDare Me
Megan Abbott

Reconstructing Amelia book coverReconstructing Amelia
Kimberly McCreight

 

Domestic Divas

Big Little Lies book coverBig Little Lies
Liane Moriarty

Momzillas book coverMomzillas
Jill Kargman

Keep Your Friends Close…

Friends and Foes book coverFriends & Foes
R. Billingsley and V. Murray

Crazy Rich Asians book coverCrazy Rich Asians
Kevin Kwan

Classic Manipulations

Crucible book coverThe Crucible
Arthur Miller

Emma book coverEmma
Jane Austen

 

Confronting Childhood

Sharp Objects book coverSharp Objects
Gillian Flynn

Cats Eye book coverCat’s Eye
Margaret Atwood

 

You too can ask at the desk! Stop by Fiction/AV/Teen Services on the second floor to say hello, or ask online to visit our virtual desk. We’re ready and eager to answer your bookish questions.

Asked at the Desk: Who Writes Like Liane Moriarty?

Picture of Fiction/AV/Teen deskAn increasingly popular question at the Fiction/AV/Teen Services desk this summer:

Liane Moriarty is a favorite, but I’ve read everything I can find by her.
Do you know any similar authors I could try while I’m waiting for her newest?

We know that as much as you love some authors, they can’t write fast enough to keep up with you! Offering “readalikes” is one of our core services, and here is a sampling of books we’ve suggested to Moriarty fans to great success.


The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

At a festive barbecue in a Melbourne suburb, a man slaps the child of another couple, triggering a court case and a variety of confrontations within the lives of the families and friends present.

Why this? Multiple perspectives relate a typical neighborhood experience in which something has gone horribly wrong. Sound familiar?


The Year We Turned Forthy book cover
The Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

Three best friends discover the chance to return to the year they turned forty — the year that altered each of their lives — and also get the opportunity to change their future.

Why this? Though lighter in tone than Moriarty’s stories, the exploration of both the road not taken and how our choices define us will resonate with fans of “what if” narratives.

Us by David NichollsUs book cover

What is it that holds marriages and families together? What happens, and what do we learn about ourselves, when everything threatens to fall apart? Those questions provide the frame for a mild-mannered man who isn’t willing to give up on a life that includes his wife and son.

Why this? It’s not only female authors who balance flawed characters, complex relationships, and those times in which we weigh whether our lives are what we thought they’d be.

PreschooledPreschooled book cover by Anna Lefler

In a darkly humorous story, three characters struggle to find some peace of mind among wealthy parents in a bizarre competition involving their kids. Even while commenting on the over-privilege that allows worry over the trivial, each character is presented with a degree of sympathy and humanity that parents will recognize.

Why this? One of Moriarty’s sharpest themes is skewering middle and aspiring upper class society, especially when it comes to parenting, and this matches both target and tone.

Belong to MeBelong to Me book cover by Marisa de los Santos

Everyone has secrets. While Cornelia gains unexpected insight into her troubled marriage, Piper finds her carefully controlled life unraveling in the wake of a friend’s crisis, and Lake tells a complex series of lies to gain her son’s entry into a school for gifted students.

Why this? This is a thoughtful, layered look at different women struggling to accept the roles in which they find themselves and to navigate family relationships under stress.

More Like Her by Liza PalmerMore Like Her book cover

When Emma Dunham, the woman they believe is the height of female perfection, is murdered by her husband, Francis, Lisa and Jill discover that things aren’t always what they seem, which forces them to come to terms with the secrets of their own lives.

Why this? Secrets, lies, and consequences are favorite themes for Moriarty, as is the idea that what we think we know of others’ lives is often far from the reality.

 

 

If you’ve gulped down this list and want still more, or if you have another bookish question, ask online or stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen desk on the second floor. We’d be excited to connect you with something to fit your mood!

What is a Microhistory?

Category O in the 2016 MPPL Summer Reading challenge encourages you to read a microhistory. But wait, what is a microhistory? It is a very narrow or specific study on a single event or object throughout history. Below are just a few of the many titles we carry at the Library! Take one out and become an expert.

Labor of Love book coverLabor of Love: The Invention of Dating
by Moira Weigel
Weigel examines dating throughout the ages, from the days of video dating in the 1980s to today’s texting.
The Warmth of Other Suns book coverThe Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
Three American migrants are traced as they moved from the South to the North to create an emotional yet inspirational story of the struggles involved.

 

The Most Perfect Thing book coverThe Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and Outside) a Bird’s Egg
by Tim Birkhead
Bursting with everything you wanted to know about bird eggs, this will cause you to look at birds in a new way!
Banana book coverBanana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World
By Dan Koeppel
A life without bananas? Sounds impossible, right? Wrong! Koeppel tracks bananas through the ages and the sobering reality that bananas as we know them are at risk.

 

Paper Paging Through History book coverPaper: Paging Through History
by Mark Kurlansky
How has paper changed from its beginning to now? Kurlansky (known for Salt) shares the unique roles paper has played in society.
Oneida book coverOneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table
by Ellen Wayland-Smith
Wayland-Smith explores the Oneida community in America, which rejected monogamy, marriage, and the traditional family structure in 1848 and eventually turned itself into a successful silverware company.

 

It’s not too late to join the Summer Reading Challenge.
Not sure how to get started?  We have advice!
Share what you read and see what other people are reading using #MPPLsummer16

For reading suggestions, email us at readers@mppl.org or tweet at us @MPPLIB

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