2016-17 Literary Masters LIST has been posted, and our October selection The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead has also landed on the long list for the National Book Award for fiction, while our May choice The Sellout by Paul Beatty is now short listed for the Man Booker Prize.
Here are the long list titles for the National Book Award:
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
Miss Jane by Brad Watson
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
And here are the titles on the short list for the Man Booker Prize:
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
All That Man Is by David Szalay
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
Don't you just LOVE this time of year? Let me know what you're reading from the above lists!
WHIRL (What Have I Read Lately) Books is a site for readers to find books for themselves and their book clubs. Liz at Literary Masters runs book groups and literary salons where we "dig deep" into literary treasures.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
I am so moved by the story of a woman who passed away this week. And I didn't even know her. Anna Dewdney was just 50 years old, the mother of two girls, and an author of the very popular picture book series Llama Llama. This headline of a story in The Washington Post caught my eye: "This beloved children's author didn't want a funeral. She said read to a child instead."
The WAPO article refers to an opinion piece that Anna Dewdney wrote for the The Wall Street Journal in 2013. It's titled "How Books Can Teach Your Child To Care," and it eloquently lays out the argument that we should read to our children, and promote their reading, not just for literacy's sake, but because reading stories develops empathy in children. Here is an excerpt:
"However, empathy is as important as literacy. When we read with a child, we are doing so much more than teaching him to read or instilling in her a love of language. We are doing something that I believe is just as powerful, and it is something that we are losing as a culture: by reading with a child, we are teaching that child to be human. When we open a book, and share our voice and imagination with a child, that child learns to see the world through someone else’s eyes. I will go further and say that that child then learns to feel the world more deeply, becoming more aware of himself and others in a way that he simply cannot experience except in our laps, or in our classrooms, or in our reading circles.
We learn empathy as children, through our interactions with the people in our lives and by experiencing the world around us. When we read books with children, we share other worlds, and even more importantly, we share ourselves. Reading with children makes an intimate, human connection that teaches that child what it means to be alive as one of many beings on the planet. We are naming feelings, sharing experience, and expressing love and understanding, all in a safe environment. When we read a book with children, then children – no matter how stressed, no matter how challenged – are drawn out of themselves to bond with other human beings, and to see and feel the experiences of others. I believe that it is this moment that makes us human. In this sense, reading makes us human."
Perhaps this resonates with me so much because of what I do. Time and again in our Literary Masters Parent/Child book groups, I see the ability of stories to open the eyes and minds of our members as we explore sometimes difficult issues via the safe space of fictional characters. Time and again we try to 'get inside the head' of the villain so we can understand his or her motivations. Time and again we ask ourselves "What would we do in this situation?" Having these discussions makes us think about ourselves in relation to others; we become more empathetic as we imagine how it must it feel, or how it would be. We explore our own feelings and as we come to know ourselves better, we become more curious about others' feelings. In essence, we are learning to care.
You can read Anna Dewdney's obituary here. And yes, instead of a funeral, she asked that you read to a child. Wow. Talk about empathy.
Posted by Liz at 6:48 PM
Monday, June 20, 2016
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: If you're one of the few people on the planet who hasn't read this gorgeous book about two Italian friends, you have a treat in store! Actually, four treats, because it's the first of four sumptuous Neapolitan novels. Be prepared to ignore loved ones for a long while.
here. For fans of the HBO series Silicon Valley (and if you're not a fan, what is wrong with you???) and also for everyone who looks around the beach and thinks, "where did all these young people come from, and just how do they think they are making the world a better place?" Laugh out loud with some serious questions explored.
Well, this ought to take care of your page-turning needs until we post our list! That should be some time in late August, so STAY TUNED!
Do you have any titles you'd like to recommend for summer reading? We'd love to hear from you!
Thursday, April 7, 2016
Another book that I think book clubs should read is Disrupted by Dan Lyons. If you're a fan of the series Silicon Valley (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED), you may know that Lyons writes for that show. I 'binge-watched' the entire series in one go and then ran around telling everyone I know to watch it. So, when I saw that Lyons had written a book, I picked it up.
Warp-speed plot summary: This is a memoir about Lyons' time after he gets fired from his job as an editor at Newsweek. He's 52 with a wife and two children and his career has suddenly come to a screeching halt. He's a journalist and the world of journalism is done--as is he. So he does what many 'older' workers have to do: he reinvents himself and enters the unknown and surreal world of tech start-ups. He lands a job at Hubspot, a 'hot' start-up, as "marketing fellow," and his experiences there are what he writes about. Lyons takes the reader on an hilarious and eye-popping journey as he acts as anthropologist and tour guide visiting an exotic and possibly dangerous tribe.
So, what can your book club discuss?
There is a lot to talk about, so in no particular order:
- You'll want to discuss the company culture and what that means. What kind of corporate culture is good? It's fascinating to think about how companies used to treat employees and how much that has changed, especially at technology companies in the Silicon Valley. How did this happen? What does it say about us as people, as a society? Is the way things are now better than they used to be? Is labor, as Lyons states, still being exploited by capital, but this time while wearing a big smiley face?
- Related to the above, talk about how a company gets its employees to "drink the Kool Aid." And then discuss how a company gets its customers to guzzle the same drink down. Do you think many companies really DO make the world a better place?
- Also related to the above, talk about the greed involved in all of this. What is the motivation of the various characters involved? Also discuss the flaunting of wealth. What do you think of this? Areas such as the San Francisco Bay Area have been greatly impacted by the tech companies, in both good and bad ways. Talk about this. We always hear about the housing prices making it unaffordable for 'ordinary' people to live in the area, but what about the values of the City? Is the immense wealth and its unabashed display impacting citizens' values and what they deem important, and how they behave?
- You'll want to discuss ageism. Well, you may not want to discuss it, but you should. It's real and it affects many people. Are you part of the problem? Do you think young people are smarter than old? Are they naturally better at understanding technology? Can they learn things that older people can't? How old is 'old' to you? How can we stop ageism? Or are the ageists right?
- You'll want to discuss the elephant in the room. How stupid do tech executives, their spin doctors, venture capitalists, and their spin doctors, as portrayed by Lyons, think we are? Do you think Lyons' depiction of these people is accurate? Is it high time someone pointed out the ridiculousness of the bubble, or is it, as a couple of execs claim in the story, not a bubble but "an unprecedented long boom"? What about the business model as Lyons describes it: "grow fast, lost money, go public."? How are companies (which are made up of people) getting away with this?
- You'll want to discuss the idea of marketing, PR, spin, and sales. Can truth exist in such an environment? Where is the responsibility of the press in all of this? Does an objective press even exist, or is every journalist also being 'spun'?
- There is a LOT of psychology in this book. People are playing 'mind games'--manipulating employees, investors, and customers. Other people seem to willingly let themselves be exploited. You'll want to discuss this. What are the motivating factors behind the roles the characters elect to play? What about the role you're playing? Lyons refers to a Silicon Valley adage--if we use online services, we are not the customers, we are the products--we exist solely to be packaged up and sold to advertisers. How do you feel about that?
- You'll want to discuss the author. Clearly, this is HIS story, and no one at Hubspot has a chance to speak up for him or herself. How much can we trust Lyons? Although he can be self-deprecating and admittedly acerbic, is he being completely honest with us? How about with himself? He criticizes the frat-boy culture, but then whoops it up with writers who don't seem any different. Is this a case of "Do as I say, not as I do"? Is the "tribe" that he feels more comfortable in vastly different when it comes to ageism, sexism, racism, and all the other --ism's? How much of what he goes through at Hubspot is his own fault? Is he being fair to Hubspot?
- You should also talk about how vulnerable we all are with regard to our data being online. How do you feel about Lyons' statement: "Even the people who supposedly manage our data have no idea where all of it resides or who has access to it."? Does it make you want to bury your head in the sand further?
Thursday, December 3, 2015
You'll remember from one of my earlier WHIRL posts that I loved her novel The Lovers. (Click here to see what I had to say about that.) This new book seems to be exploring themes of identity--of who we are and what shapes who we become. Written in the second person, this sounds like a book Literary Masters members would love to 'dig deep' into!
Have you read The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty? What did you think?
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Further to my post below on the wonderful book Brooklyn being made into a movie, I can tell you it's terrific! If you're looking for a family film over the holidays, this one is a winner. Here's a video clip about the film you may enjoy:
I went with some women from my personal book club, and now we are re-reading the book for this month's selection.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
You all know how much I love the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio, right? If not, here's my post on it--and my call for you to read it! There's a part in the book where Auggie's mom tells him that "...there are more good people on this earth than bad people, and the good people watch out for each other and take care of each other." I couldn't stop thinking about this when I saw the following clip on the news. A father is discussing the events of last Friday in Paris with his son near the site where people have been leaving flowers and candles:
How WONDERFUL is this? And WONDROUS! He made me feel better, too.
Posted by Liz at 11:18 AM