Monday, February 22, 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird

With the news of Harper Lee's death over the weekend, there will be renewed interest in her writing.  Lee's most famous work, "To Kill a Mockingbird" was published in 1960 and has become a fixture in the reading lives of so many over the years.  The work is still assigned as to high school students as a means to open up a dialogue about race relations in America. Most readers will have some experience with her work and the news of her death has been a topic of conversation amongst many.

In 2015, a new novel by Lee was released, "Go Set a Watchman."  The manuscript is shrouded in mystery and unresolved questions.  After her original book was published, Lee never wrote another work that was released.  Lee was living with age-related health issues when she is supposed to have approve the release of the Watchman manuscript.  Most who read the novel feel that it is only an earlier draft of Mockingbird.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is a novel that allows readers to walk through any of Nancy Pearl's doorways to seek enjoyment.  The story is a taut and dimensional thriller with a central courtroom drama and satisfying side plots.  The characters are varied and still relatable nearly 50 years later.  The setting is interested and well drawn with realistic characteristics.  The language is interesting as it features dialect and the complex story is narrated by a child.  This is truly a rare book that can appeal to almost every reader and is thoroughly enjoyed by all who choose to read it.

Research suggests that Mockingbird was a book that was a heavily edited debut novel.  It is quite likely that Lee had several versions of the novel before the final version was released.  I believe Watchman is one of those versions and does not represent a completely new work of note.  As so few books can really straddle all appeal factors, I feel that the book is the genius of more than one writer.

The book remains an important book and a great read no matter how it came to be.  Lee will be forever remembered as the author of a book that taught so much about the history of the American south.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Going to the Dogs. . .

The 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize was awarded to Andre Alexis' "Fifteen Dogs."  The book is a short read that features a divine bet between Apollo and Hermes.  Apollo bets Hermes that dogs will be no happier if they are afforded human intelligence and self-awareness.  Those with a philosophical background will enjoy the argumentation that occurs throughout the narrative as the Gods debate the nature of the dogs' experience on earth.  The use of dogs as the main characters is also timely as canines have largely displaced actual human offspring on the desirability scale.

The Conversation:

Customer: "I just finished Alexis' "Fifteen Dogs."  Man, it was so good, I can see why it won the Giller.  I usually don't enjoy Canadian fiction - too much winter, too many bears and too many sad people."

Readers' Advisor: "I hear that!  The book was very urban and the focus on dogs was unique?  What did you like most about the book?"

C: "I really liked the argument between the Gods.  Like we are all just pawns in this game beyond our control.  I like to think of how animals are like humans or how they would behave like humans."

RA: "If I make some suggestions, would you be okay if there were no animals?  What if it focused just on philosophy or divine activities?"

C: "Nah, just the animals.  I think I want to read a few more books that feature animals in human situations."

The Search:

In my catalogue, the subject headings weren't too useful.  I did get a few options from using those, but I feel like the suggestions will come from past reading experience.  There are additional lists on goodreads and Genreflecting will have "animal stories."


Animal Farm (1945) George Orwell

Watership Down (1972) Richard Adams

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (2011) Benjamin Hale

Timbuktu (2000) Paul Auster

The Dog Master: A Novel of the First Dog (2015) W. Bruce Cameron

Project Nim (2011) film

Monday, February 8, 2016

Readers' Advisory at the OLA Superconference

I'll give you some direct links to RA session with additional content from the Superconference sessions

Psst…I Read Smutty Books
Chantelle Taylor, Kristel Fleuren-Hunter, Lesley Brann
  • A session about erotic fiction.

  • OLA's RA Committee's session about readers' advisory.

  • Serving the larger LGTBQ youth community.