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The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club Summer Reads: Leviathan Wakes, The Gunslinger, and The Hobbit

6 Sep

The Hoboken Public Library Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club read some great books over the summer that I wanted to share with our blog readers. (Click here to find out what else they’ve read.)  The group meets one Monday each month to discuss a Science Fiction or Fantasy book picked by group members.  New members are always welcome.  Before the book discussion we also watch either a film adaptation or a movie in a similar genre to the work being read which allows those who are SciFi or Fantasy fans but might be busy to read this month’s selection to still participate in the group.  I hope you will check out some of these books and films and consider joining us in September when we will discuss The Stepford Wives by Ira Levine on September 25 at 6 PM with a movie screening at 4 PM.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

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Several members of the group were fans of TV series The Expanse and wanted to read Leviathan Wakes, which the series the show is based on for our June Pick.  Corey is actually the pseudonym of two authors and the book series started out as first a story line for a video game and then a table top game created by Ty Franck before the collaboration between Daniel Abraham and Franck led to the books.  Interestingly Ty Franck worked for a while as an assistant to George R.R. Martin, author of A Game of Thrones, a previous book club pickLeviathan Wakes is set in a future where space travel is common, but faster than light travel has not yet been reached leading people to inhabit Earth, Mars, and an Asteroid Belt, but not yet to have moved beyond our Solar System.  The book has elements of science fiction, horror, and mystery.  It received a very positive response from the group members, several of who braved a severe thunderstorm to get to the discussion.  It was so popular that we may read another of the books in the series in the future.  We complimented the book with a screening of Wall-E, an animated favorite of one of our group members, which has an important environmental message.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

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In July, the group wanted to read The Gunslinger the first in the Dark Tower series before the movie adaptation came out in theaters at the beginning of August.  I’m not always a huge fan of King’s, but I was intrigued by some of the other group members’ enthusiasm and the fact that the idea of the Dark Tower was partially inspired by Robert Browning’s poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.” I appreciate taking part in the group since it pushes me to read outside of my comfort zone sometimes.  The book is a mix of fantasy, horror, western, and mystery and is set in a post-apocalyptic world where Roland, the last gunslinger, is attempting to stop the mysterious and powerful sorcerer, the Man in Black.  The group watched a preview the movie studio had put online and discussed the casting (general consensus was we like the choice of casting Idris Elba for the role of Roland, but were less sure about Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black).  I will be interested to hear what the group members think of it once they see the whole film.

Before the book discussion we watched the 1973 movie Westworld, Michael Crichton’s directorial debut.  Before this I had only seen one episode of the recent TV series which was based on the movie.  The movie immediately felt a lot lighter than the TV series and everyone praised the excellent performance by Yul Brynner.  You can also borrow the sequel to the film Futureworld and the TV Series Beyond Future World from the Hoboken Public Library.

The Hobbit by ‎J. R. R. Tolkien

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You may remember back in January I wrote a blog celebrating that this year was 125th Anniversary of Tolkien’s birth.  We decided to read The Hobbit for our August book.  It was probably about 30 years since I had last read the book as a child and I feel like the book not only held up for me, but I also enjoyed the story even more than when I had first read it.  The other group members seemed to have similar positive experiences upon their rereads.  One of the group was even inspired to reread the books in the Lord of the Ring Trilogy.  The group watched the first in the Peter Jackson trilogy based on the book which many members felt was the best of the three recent adaptations; many of the group members would have preferred that less had been added to the original text to pad out the movies.

If you are interested in other genres, the library has two additional book discussion groups you can join.  Our Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books will meet Wednesday September 20 at 7 PM to discuss Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling.  The Mile Square City Readers Book Club takes a page from Oprah’s Book Club this month, and will discuss Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers on Tuesday September 19 at 6:30 PM.  In the fall we are also planning to start a Creative Writer’s group.  The Hoboken Public Library is your source for great books and conversation!

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

The 5 Books I Plan to Read for Summer 2017

16 Jun

Nothing makes a librarian happier than recommending books to others, so I was delighted when my niece FaceTimed last week to ask for summer reading suggestions. She starts high school in the fall and is required to read a nonfiction book and a fiction book during the summer, which she will do while she is away at camp. This also inspired me to think about my own summer reading, so I will tell you about the books I suggested for my niece, and what I plan to read.

(Don’t forget that the Hoboken Public Library is here for all your summer reading needs, with print books, eBooks, audiobooks, and more. Our Summer Reading Programs for all ages kick off Thursday June 22, where what you read this summer puts you in the running for prizes! And of course, we will celebrate our reading successes once summer ends.)

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My niece: isn’t she a cutie? ❤

Recommendations for My Niece

My suggestion for nonfiction was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. (Click here to find this title in hardcover, paperback, audiobook, large print, and eBook.) This book about Henrietta Lacks, the woman whose still-growing HeLa cell line has been used in more than 60 years of scientific and medical progress, has been a sensation since it was first published. It is a hybrid of biography about Henrietta, her family, and where she grew up in rural Virginia; history of racist practices against poor blacks in medical settings (Henrietta’s cells were taken during a medical exam and used in research without her or her family’s knowledge and consent); and science writing that is accessible and makes the reader think. This book is absolutely brilliant, and ranks among the best nonfiction I have ever read.

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This book assigned in high school classes, and a friend that teaches high school science gave this book a thumbs-up for teens. I think it will be a challenging and educational read for my niece. However, she is forbidden from watching the recent HBO movie adaptation that stars Oprah instead of reading the text. (This Librarian always prefers the book to the movie.)

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For fiction she wanted straight YA. I first suggested The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which I am currently reading. Starr is a young African American woman straddling two worlds–her gritty urban neighborhood and her pedigreed suburban private school–whose childhood friend Kahlil is shot and killed while unarmed during a traffic stop by a police officer.

The heavy subject matter yielded a nose wrinkle from my niece, and I understand her feeling. Most people want to read light, fun books in the summer. (As you read further into this post, you will see that I am not one of these people!) This book is intense, and has moved me to tears a few times while reading, but The Hate U Give is an impressive debut by Angie Thomas.

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My next YA fiction suggestion was When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (available in print and as an eBook). I haven’t read this book, about two Indian-American teens whose parents are planning an eventual arranged marriage for them who meet in a summer program before college. Rebecca and Liberty from Book Riot’s All the Books podcast say that this book is adorable, and I plan to read it myself. My niece may like the romantic elements and the teen characters. 

I will be writing letters to my niece at camp to check in on her reading progress, and to talk about what she ultimately chose to read.

Next up are books I want to read this summer.

Inspired by the American Crime Story Anthology Series

I watched American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson last year and was riveted. Perhaps the series resonated because I remember the Bronco chase broadcast live on TV in 1994 (and was miffed that the chase interrupted ABC’s TGIF lineup) and the extensive trial coverage. 

In 2018 there where will be two more installments of the American Crime Story series, and I may change my cable cord-cutter status to watch them. The first is about the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace in August 1997 that was part of a killing spree by Andrew Cunanan. (Filming for this series is underway, and photos of Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan are online.) The source book is Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Manhunt in FBI History by Maureen Orth, which reports on Cunanan’s crimes leading up to his encounter with Versace. I love a good true crime story (click here to read my review of The Lost Girls by Robert Kolker) and want to read about this case before the show airs.

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The next American Crime Story will cover Hurricane Katrina. I have written about media inspired by this devastating storm, so I am very interested in this story. The source text is The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley. This is a well-researched, dense volume that will likely take me all summer to get through. I am reading the first chapter now, which discusses the establishment of New Orleans as a port city, its flooding history, and how the vulnerable Louisiana coastline has eroded over the past 200 years.

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In case you are wondering, the source for American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson was The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin.

A Wildcard Pick

My father will happily tell you that he has been exposing me to 1960s music since my early childhood. In the car, the radio was always tuned to 101.1 FM, which was New Yorks’ Oldies station. Now that he’s upgraded to satellite radio, he always listens to the 60s on 6 channel, and sometimes First Wave (the 1980s alternative channel, which is my influence on him).

This exposure has definitely fostered my appreciation of 1960s music. In particular, I am a fan of Otis Redding. This past spring Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life by Jonathan Gould was published. I want to read this well-reviewed biography to learn more about one of my favorite artists, who died in a plane crash before his signature song “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” was released in 1968 and became a hit.

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So, this is my summer reading list. I am also duty-bound to read the books for the Library’s Mile Square City Readers Book Club, the Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books, and the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge I’m following. So I have no shortage of books to read!

Tell me reader, what are you reading this summer?

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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