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

Summer Reading with My 3 Nieces: The Hate U Give, Into the Wild, and Everything, Everything (and Read Harder Task 10)

11 Aug

In my last post I wrote about recommending books to my eldest niece for her summer reading assignment. This gave me the idea to assign myself the same books she and her two sisters are reading this summer so we can discuss them. This is the first post of that series.

Aimee wrote last week in her post about 1000 Books Before Kindergarten about how she enjoys reading with her son, and the importance of parents and caregivers reading to children before they start school. My nieces are all past kindergarten now, but I think it’s important to keep talking to kids about books even after they’ve learned to read independently. My friend Jenny has a whole blog about this idea called Books, Babies, and Bows, where she writes about reading with her daughters that is worth exploring.

My niece read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (my recommendation!) for fiction, and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer for nonfiction.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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This debut novel by Angie Thomas, whose title references rapper Tupac Shakur and is inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, is hands-down one of the best books I have read this year. Sarah reports that she enjoyed this book, too. After finishing it I took to my social media channels to tell everyone to read it. And I am telling you, dear reader of this blog, to read it too. 

Starr Carter is a typical teenager who loves a fresh pair of Jordans, LeBron James, and Harry Potter, and believes she is somehow related to Jay-Z (aka Sean Carter, aka Mr. Beyonce Knowles) because they share a last name. She finds herself in an extraordinary situation after witnessing her friend Khalil’s murder by a police officer she refers to as One Fifteen. This book follows that aftermath in her gritty community and at her suburban private school interacting with her rather un-woke classmates, including one she considered a close friend.

I was more interested in the adults in The Hate U Give. Starr’s parents, Momma and Daddy (proper names Lisa and Maverick), are well-written and multifaceted. They too struggle with staying loyal to their community and their desire to give Starr and her siblings a better life. I will have to ask my niece for her thoughts about Starr’s parents, but they’re the ones I’m still thinking about after finishing the book.

Reading this book completed the Read a Debut Novel task for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, which I am still working on. More about that journey at this link.

The most important lesson that Starr learns in this story is to use her voice, even when it’s hard and scary and the circumstances are not ideal. I hope that is the takeaway for my niece. 

The Hate U Give will become a film. Click here to see which actors will play Starr, her parents, and her older brother Seven. But … please read the book before you see the movie!

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

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Sarah chose this book (which was published in 1996, seven years before she was born!) on her own. I have long heard of it, but hadn’t read it until now. Into the Wild appears on many school summer reading lists (an edition written for a young adult audience exists), and after reading it I understand why. This story includes science, geography, family drama, mystery, human psychology, history, practical information about survival, and even ethnography. Truly, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this book.

After his 1992 graduation from Emory University in Atlanta, Chris McCandless donated his savings to charity and drove to the American West with the goal to reach Alaska. Two years later his emaciated body was found in an abandoned bus used at shelter in the Denali region of Alaska. The book grew from an article that Jon Krakauer wrote for Outside magazine published in January 1993 about McCandless.

The biggest questions about Chris McCandless start with “why”. Why did he start this adventure? Why did he cut off contact with his family, including his sister Carine, to whom he was close? (Carine wrote The Wild Truth, published in 2014, about her and Chris’s life growing up.) Why did he take on the name Alexander Supertramp? Into the Wild explores those questions, with in-depth reporting from Chris’s family and friends and the people he encountered on his journey to Alaska.

Sarah reported that she is reading the adult edition and had trouble understanding the story at the beginning, but she likes it. What I noticed in the book was what my mother calls “ten dollar words”. Some of the language Krakauer used in the book tripped me up! My hope is Sarah remembers those words when she takes the SAT in a few years.

Sean Penn’s film adaptation of the book is remarkable. Emile Hirsch’s performance, especially in the final scenes of the movie, is haunting. Don’t make my mistake of watching this movie before going to sleep.

Sarah also read Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, which she said was an easy read and really good. Now I feel compelled to add this to my bursting summer reading list because I’ve heard lots of good things about, and was recently made into a movie.

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Stay tuned for the next post, where I write about the books my second niece Alyssa (who I wrote about here) read this summer.

How is your summer reading going? If you have young people in your life, do you talk about books with them?

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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