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2011 Reading Group Selections

2011 Reading Group Selections

Upcoming Reading Selections

January 4, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett

Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town...

SOURCE: Copyright © BN.com. All rights reserved

February 1, 2011

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Bronte

Written in 1847, this novel remains a favorite, especially among younger readers and listeners who continue to be entranced by the young Jane and her mysterious Mr. Rochester. The story of an unhappy orphan and her life as a governess at Thornfield is filled with difficulty, including a shocking revelation on her wedding day. The happy ending finally arrives, though, and Jane and Rochester are united forever. Long criticized as being melodramatic and contrived, Jane Eyre has nonetheless become a romantic classic and is often the book that introduces students to serious literature. Bronte's suspense-filled plot adapts well to the audio format. This version, although abridged, omits nothing of importance. Juliet Stevenson, a Royal Shakespeare Company associate, reads with the drama the story demands and makes each character emerge with life and energy. Recommended for general audiences.

SOURCE: Copyright © Michael Neubert, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.. All rights reserved.

March 8, 2010

Guest Speaker Thomas Mullen

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
7:00pm

Thomas Mullen is the author of The Last Town on Earth, which was named Best Debut Novel of 2006 by USA Today, was a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year, and was awarded the James Fenimore Cooper Prize; and the critically acclaimed The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers.

The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen

The Last Town on Earth
by Thomas Mullen

Set against the backdrop of one of the most virulent epidemics that America ever experienced–the 1918 flu epidemic–Thomas Mullen’s powerful, sweeping first novel is a tale of morality in a time of upheaval.

Deep in the mist-shrouded forests of the Pacific Northwest is a small mill town called Commonwealth, conceived as a haven for workers weary of exploitation. For Philip Worthy, the adopted son of the town’s founder, it is a haven in another sense–as the first place in his life he’s had a loving family to call his own.

And yet, the ideals that define this outpost are being threatened from all sides. A world war is raging, and with the fear of spies rampant, the loyalty of all Americans is coming under scrutiny. Meanwhile, another shadow has fallen across the region in the form of a deadly illness striking down vast swaths of surrounding communities.

When Commonwealth votes to quarantine itself against contagion, guards are posted at the single road leading in and out of town, and Philip Worthy is among them. He will be unlucky enough to be on duty when a cold, hungry, tired–and apparently ill–soldier presents himself at the town’s doorstep begging for sanctuary. The encounter that ensues, and the shots that are fired, will have deafening reverberations throughout Commonwealth, escalating until every human value–love, patriotism, community, family, friendship–not to mention the town’s very survival, is imperiled.

Inspired by a little-known historical footnote regarding towns that quarantined themselves during the 1918 epidemic, The Last Town on Earth is a remarkably moving and accomplished debut.

SOURCE: Copyright © BN.com. All rights reserved

April 5, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens

Novel by Charles Dickens, published both serially and in book form in 1859. The story is set in the late 18th century against the background of the French Revolution. Although Dickens borrowed from Thomas Carlyle's history, The French Revolution, for his sprawling tale of London and revolutionary Paris, the novel offers more drama than accuracy. The scenes of large-scale mob violence are especially vivid, if superficial in historical understanding. The complex plot involves Sydney Carton's sacrifice of his own life on behalf of his friends Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette. While political events drive the story, Dickens takes a decidedly antipolitical tone, lambasting both aristocratic tyranny and revolutionary excess--the latter memorably caricatured in Madame Defarge, who knits beside the guillotine. The book is perhaps best known for its opening lines, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," and for Carton's last speech, in which he says of his replacing Darnay in a prison cell, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.

SOURCE: Copyright © The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature All rights reserved.
   

May 3, 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Steig Larsson

Cases rarely come much colder than the decades-old disappearance of teen heiress Harriet Vanger from her family's remote island retreat north of Stockholm, nor do fiction debuts hotter than this European bestseller by muckraking Swedish journalist Larsson. At once a strikingly original thriller and a vivisection of Sweden's dirty not-so-little secrets (as suggested by its original title, Men Who Hate Women), this first of a trilogy introduces a provocatively odd couple: disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist, freshly sentenced to jail for libeling a shady businessman, and the multipierced and tattooed Lisbeth Salander, a feral but vulnerable superhacker. Hired by octogenarian industrialist Henrik Vanger, who wants to find out what happened to his beloved great-niece before he dies, the duo gradually uncover a festering morass of familial corruption—at the same time, Larsson skillfully bares some of the similar horrors that have left Salander such a marked woman. Larsson died in 2004, shortly after handing in the manuscripts for what will be his legacy. 100,000 first printing. (Sept.)

SOURCE: Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
   

June 7, 2011

Digging To America by Anne Tyler

Digging to America
by Anne Tyler

Like Ms. Tyler's best novels, Digging to America gives us an intimate picture of middle-class family life: its satisfactions and discontents, its ability to suffocate and console. But at the same time the story ventures into territory more usually associated with writers like Jhumpa Lahiri and Gish Jen. It looks at the promises and perils of the American Dream and the knotty, layered relationship made up in equal parts of envy, admiration, resentment and plain befuddlement that can develop between native-born Americans and more recent immigrants intent on making their way through the often baffling byways of the New World.

SOURCE: Copyright © New York Times. All rights reserved.
  

July 5, 2011

The Bean Trees
by Barbara Kingslover


Feisty Marietta Greer changes her name to "Taylor" when her car runs out of gas in Taylorville, Ill. By the time she reaches Oklahoma, this strong-willed young Kentucky native with a quick tongue and an open mind is catapulted into a surprising new life. Taylor leaves home in a beat-up '55 Volkswagen bug, on her way to nowhere in particular, savoring her freedom. But when a forlorn Cherokee woman drops a baby in Taylor's passenger seat and asks her to take it, she does. A first novel, The Bean Trees is an overwhelming delight, as random and unexpected as real life. The unmistakable voice of its irresistible heroine is whimsical, yet deeply insightful. Taylor playfully names her little foundling "Turtle," because she clings with an unrelenting, reptilian grip; at the same time, Taylor aches at the thought of the silent, staring child's past suffering. With Turtle in tow, Taylor lands in Tucson, Ariz., with two flat tires and decides to stay. The desert climate, landscape and vegetation are completely foreign to Taylor, and in learning to love Arizona, she also comes face to face with its rattlesnakes and tarantulas. Similarly, Taylor finds that motherhood, responsibility and independence are thorny, if welcome, gifts. This funny, inspiring book is a marvelous affirmation of risk-taking, commitment and everyday miracles.

SOURCE: Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. All rights reserved.
 

August 2, 2011

Bel Canto
by Ann Patchett

As her readers now eagerly anticipate, Patchett (The Magician's Assistant) can be counted on to deliver novels rich in imaginative bravado and psychological nuance. This fluid and assured narrative, inspired by a real incident, demonstrates her growing maturity and mastery of form as she artfully integrates a musical theme within a dramatic story. Celebrated American soprano Roxane Coss has just finished a recital in the home of the vice-president of a poor South American country when terrorists burst in, intent on taking the country's president hostage. The president, however, has not attended the concert, which is a birthday tribute in honor of a Japanese business tycoon and opera aficionado. Determined to fulfill their demands, the rough, desperate guerrillas settle in for a long siege. The hostages, winnowed of all women except Roxane, whose voice beguiles her captors, are from many countries; their only common language is a love of opera. As the days drag on, their initial anguish and fear give way to a kind of complex domesticity, as intricately involved as the melodies Roxane sings during their captivity. While at first Patchett's tone seems oddly flippant and detached, it soon becomes apparent that this light note is an introduction to her main theme, which is each character's cathartic experience. The drawn-out hostage situation comes to seem normal, even halcyon, until the inevitable rescue attempt occurs, with astonishing consequences. Patchett proves equal to her themes; the characters' relationships mirror the passion and pain of grand opera, and readers are swept up in a crescendo of emotional fervor.

SOURCE: Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. All rights reserved.
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September 6, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot

From a single, abbreviated life grew a seemingly immortal line of cells that made some of the most crucial innovations in modern science possible. And from that same life, and those cells, Rebecca Skloot has fashioned in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks a fascinating and moving story of medicine and family, of how life is sustained in laboratories and in memory. Henrietta Lacks was a mother of five in Baltimore, a poor African American migrant from the tobacco farms of Virginia, who died from a cruelly aggressive cancer at the age of 30 in 1951. A sample of her cancerous tissue, taken without her knowledge or consent, as was the custom then, turned out to provide one of the holy grails of mid-century biology: human cells that could survive--even thrive--in the lab. Known as HeLa cells, their stunning potency gave scientists a building block for countless breakthroughs, beginning with the cure for polio. Meanwhile, Henrietta's family continued to live in poverty and frequently poor health, and their discovery decades later of her unknowing contribution--and her cells' strange survival--left them full of pride, anger, and suspicion. For a decade, Skloot doggedly but compassionately gathered the threads of these stories, slowly gaining the trust of the family while helping them learn the truth about Henrietta, and with their aid she tells a rich and haunting story that asks the questions, Who owns our bodies? And who carries our memories? --Tom Nissley

SOURCE: Copyright 2010 Amazon.com.All rights reserved.
  

October 4, 2011

Summer Sisters
by Judy Blume

Caitlin lives with her mother in Sante Fe, but spends summers on a New England island with her father, brother, and stepmother. Both parents give her free rein, and her beauty, independence, and talent for getting away with outrageous behavior make her an intriguing star to her middle school classmates. Victoria can't understand why Caitlin would single her out to be her "summer sister" on Martha's Vineyard as she sees herself as quiet and dull. She senses, though, that this vacation is an important turning point and convinces her conservative parents to let her go. The girls become fast friends, sharing six unforgettable summers together. The girls cope with their changing bodies, difficult family relationships, boyfriends, and concerns about their futures. The author's perceptive treatment of special childhood moments, the trials and joys of adolescence, and the magical possibilities of summer make this an entertaining read.

SOURCE: Copyright 2010 Amazon.com.All rights reserved.

 

November 1, 2011

Life is Short, but Wide
by J. California Cooper

This is “a story about love: hard-to-find, hard-to-get, hard-to-keep love.” The narrator is 91-year-old Hattie B. Brown, who, along with her 105-year-old mother, relates the saga of a family that begins with Val Strong, a Native American cattle driver, and Irene, the African American woman he comes to love. Between them they build a life in Wideland, Oklahoma, with a house and some land. Cooper tells her story with simplicity and grace. No apologies are made for the foolishness or baseness of any of her characters, and she freely sermonizes and moralizes whenever she feels it is called for. The result is a poignant and often-funny story of people trying to survive and find someone to love. --Elizabeth Dickie –

SOURCE: Copyright 2010 Amazon.com.All rights reserved.

 

December 6, 2011

Skellig
by David Almond

Amidst the intensity and anxiety of his world, Michael is a normal kid. He goes to school, plays soccer, and has friends with nicknames like Leakey and Coot. It's at home where his life becomes extraordinary, with the help of Skellig and Mina, the quirky, strong-willed girl next door. Skellig was the Whitbread Award's 1998 Children's Book of the Year, and this haunting novel is sure to resonate with readers young and old.

SOURCE: Copyright 2010 Amazon.com.All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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