Friday, December 17, 2010

We're Number One!

Results of the 2010 U.S. Census are being released and provide some very interesting findings.

Here are some facts:
  • The great state of Minnesota ranks No. 1 in high school graduation rates. 91% of residents aged 25 or older have the minimum of a high school degree.
  • Our own Washington County ranks No. 1 within the state, boasting a rate of 96% of residents obtaining that diploma.
  • Washington County residents be proud! We are ranked at being the 15th highest in achieving high school diploma status out of more than 3,000 counties nationwide.

Cheers to those hardworking teachers, librarians, parents and grandparents who help instill the love of learning. Kudos to those who continue to read and to learn, and to those who offer others encouragement and support.

See the December 15th article of this news from the Pioneer Press at:,
or view the American Community Survey on the Census Bureau's web site at: .

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday News

With Thanksgiving just behind us, the book club choice for the month of December is You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas, by Augusten Burroughs.

There are two changes to the meeting for December. Note the change in date to Tuesday, December 14th. Kelly has again offered to host our group for the annual holiday meeting. We will meet at her home at 6:30. Please bring an appetizer or treat to share.

The November meeting was held to plan the reading list for the upcoming year. For those thinking ahead, (or while shopping find some really good coupons from bookstores), here are the selections for the first few months:
  • January - Queen of the Road, by Doreen Orion
  • February - Wives of Henry Oades, by Johanna Moran
  • March - The Tall Pines Polka, by Lorna Landvik
  • April - A Private History of Awe, by Scott Russell Sanders

More snow is on the way! Stay warm and happy reading!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Piece of History Comes to Life

Memoirs are a popular form of non-fiction reading. Now there is one that has been one hundred years in the making.

What? How can that be?

Recently published is The Autobiography of Mark Twain, an unedited memoir left by the author, with the strict instructions that it not be published for a century after his death. Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Mark Twain died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910, at the age of 74. An excerpt from the book as presented by Newsweek reveals the content contains writings of personal anecdotes and stories of experiences in his life.

A note of interest: Mark Twain's birth coincided with the arrival of Halley's Comet in 1835. Later in his life, it was his expressed desire to "go out with Halley's Comet." His death occurred one day following the comet's return and closest approach to Earth. (See wikipedia for more details.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Our Opinions of Olive in October

Last Tuesday night we met to discuss the book, Olive Kittredge, by Elizabeth Strout. We had a good turnout of readers, and two new women joined the group.

Reactions to the book were mixed, although there was no one who totally disliked it. Many in the group commented on the great writing, the fully developed characters, and the well defined visuals that made the story come alive. These remarks were counterbalanced by several people describing the story as dark and depressing.

Or, I should say, stories, since the book is written as separate tales within every chapter instead of as one continual plotline. Many of us found that to be confusing. Many of us found the abrupt endings to the chapters frustrating.

Our conversations about Olive herself allowed for a lot of laughter in our meeting. We all admitted to knowing someone who was as brash as she seemed to be. Some of us saw a little of ourselves in parts of her. And the author did a good job of showing us Olive's tender side, so that little by little, as we began to know Olive better, we began to understand and like her more.

This was the first book we have chosen in our club that some readers found a second reading to be more meaningful, and others are planning to reread the book for a deeper understanding.

Read more about the author at her web site:
View the awarding of the Pulitzer Prize for this novel at:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Time to Help the Library

Be part of helping the Washington County Library system grow and prepare for the future.

Until November 14th, the library is seeking your input through an easy, seven (with multiple parts) questionnaire, online or by paper copy at any county branch. You can rate the importance of the library's current programs and help with the Strategic Planning for the future.

This is an easy way for you to voice your opinion on what direction the library should go. You will find a link to the survey on the Washington County Library web site, or here:

And, by the way, the survey does include a question on the importance of a book club . . . .

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Famous Cat Close to Home

Remember the book we read about the library cat? It was Dewey, a small town cat that touched the world. And then we talked about Oscar, a famous cat who could predict when people would die. Well, it turns out that we have a similar cat right here in our midst.

According to a story printed in the Pioneer Press (Sept. 27, 2010), there is a cat named Ollie who lives as the official pet of Gilbert House, an Episcopal Church Home here in St. Paul. This cat, too, is known to provide a presence of peace when a resident of the home has reached the end of their life.

Could it be an inherent trait in some animals? Doctor Dosa, who wrote the book about Oscar, thinks that Ollie is not that unusual. Cats have long been thought to have special traits, but not all of them are as perceptive as these two.

Read more from the newspaper's web site: St. Paul cat seems to know when nursing home residents will die, by Molly Guthrey. If you want you can add your views to an ongoing conversation, with the ability to read comments made by other readers, or leave one of your own.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nobody Liked Hillie

It is easy to see why The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, is such a popular book. Ten of us met on Tuesday night for a discussion of it. Everyone present either 'liked' or 'loved' the book, with two members who were unable to attend expressing their 'loved' opinions by proxy.

We passed the time quickly at our meeting, as the book contained so many dimensions for us to discuss. Our conversation included topics of civil rights, prejudice, poverty, and morality, to handy kitchen tips and super-sized hair curlers of the sixties.

In discussing the characters we found that a lot of us differed on having a favorite character in the book. Top among the most well liked were Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. We found Celia to be a sympathetic one. But nobody liked Hillie.

Visit the author's web site at:
See the Official Book web site at:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Surprising Facts About Books


What do the books:
  • The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
  • Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, and
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
have in common?

The Surprising Answer:

They are all books that at one time or another have been banned from schools, libraries, or bookstores.

Today is right in the middle of Banned Books Awareness Week, September 25th thru October 2nd of this year. "Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign that celebrates the freedom to read, draws attention to banned and challenged books, and highlights persecuted individuals." (Taken directly from Wikipedia. Emphasis mine.)

Half Price Books provides a link from their web site to, where you can learn more about the hundreds of books that have been considered improper to read at different times and places. You are likely to find several of your favorites and wonder why they are listed.

For example, Huck Finn was banned due to the informal style of dialogue the author used. Concord, Massachusetts considered it "trash and suitable only for the slums."

Even the dictionary itself has at one time been considered improper reading material. On the list of objectionable books was The American Heritage Dictionary, banned by a library in Missouri and a school board in Alaska. The book's offensive material was some of the words it contained. Words like 'bed', 'knocker', and 'balls.'

I don't know. All of that seems sort of tame by today's standards.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Free! Meet an Author!

Here is an exciting opportunity for anyone who likes to read. Copy this bookmark:

With funding from Minnesota's Art and Cultural Heritage Fund, and organized through Metro public libraries and the Library Foundation of Hennepin County, authors will be attending public libraries this fall to meet readers and speak about their books.

The events are free and open to the public. They are scheduled for libraries across the metro area. (So far nothing is listed for our very own.)

Some of the authors scheduled are: Terry McMillan, Colson Whitehead, Faith Sullivan, and Alison McGhee. Alas, readings by those we know well, Garrison Keillor and Patricia Hampl, have already been held. But this is an excellent way to learn more about . . . books!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Happy Anniversary . . . To Us!

Happy Anniversary!
It is hard to believe, but this month is the fourth anniversary of our first meeting of the Park Grove Library book club!

We have been a busy group, too. A glance at our list of 'Books We Have Read' shows evidence of that. As a group, we have introduced each other to new and different authors, new and different types of books, and so many new and different ideas and perspectives on what we have read. How many times has one of us liked a book, and then admitted, "I would never have thought to choose that one on my own."

So, this month we will be meeting at the library, Tuesday the 28th, at 6:30 p.m. Our selection is The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. This book is sure to generate a lot of conversation.

The Help has been called by Amazon, "The word-of-mouth fiction breakout of the year." It has been ranked at #5 on a list of Amazon's bestselling books of 2009, (see, and continues at the top of the bestseller lists for 2010. The New York Times places the book in the top 5 for bestsellers of 2010.

This is a book that has attracted a lot of attention and has a lot of longevity. We will likely be having a very interesting meeting this month.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Review of August

Anyone making a quick search on the Internet could easily conclude that the author of our book selection for August, (Nickel and Dimed in America), Barbara Ehrenreich, is as controversial as the books she writes.

Visiting the author's web site, you will be greeted with announcement of her newest release, Bright Sided, a book about the effects of positive thinking in America. Elsewhere on her site is a list of the books she has published, many of them along the same lines as Nickel and Dimed, in exposing realities within American culture. Also on her web site is a link to her blog, where she voices her opinion on topical subject matter. There is also access to a forum of internet conversation about her books.

Barbara's biography is presented in Wikipedia, identifying her as a "widely read columnist and essayist . . . the author of nearly 20 books." She is also described as an "American feminist, democratic socialist, sociologist, and political activist."

Not all authors are considered for quoting from, but that is not the case for Ms. Ehrenreich. It is easy to find several web sites with numerous quotes taken from her writing, some of the sites allow visitors to comment. See an example of this on

Monday, August 16, 2010

Library Day at the Fair

Read and Ride Wednesday is scheduled for September 1st this year at the Minnesota State Fair.

This means that if you present a valid public library card at the gate that day when you buy a ticket, you will receive a discount on the price of admission!

The Fair also promises discounts on Midway and Kidway rides that same day, all-day. Read more on the Fair's web site at:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An August Update

Diane has generously offered her home as meeting place for this month's meeting. It will be held on August 24th, just two weeks from today. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a pot luck - please bring a dish to share.

The book selection for the month is: Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich. Freda will be conducting the discussion.

This will be our last meeting of the summer, (already!), and only days away from the State Fair. Meetings will resume in September at the library.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Featured Book for July

During the month of July, the book club selection was Still Alice, by Lisa Genova. The book is about a woman who develops Alzheimer's disease. She is a university professor. So there is the reality: Alzheimer's can happen to anybody.

In my own life, I have experienced the illness in close relatives twice. In the first, I was caregiver for my mother. In those days we didn't have the volume of information that is available now on the internet. The Alzheimer's Association, (at, now has a web site that is very comprehensive and even includes a helpline phone number that is 24/7.

A memory walk to raise money is being organized for September 25th out of Bloomington, Minnesota. Sign-ups for people to walk or for donations can be made through the Alzheimer's Association web site.

Visit the author's web site,, for information on the author, Still Alice, and news about the author's newest book, Left Neglected, due out in January 2011. This web site also contains access to a discussion forum with ongoing conversations about the book and the illness.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Some Summer Reading Suggestions

I know I haven't written anything on this blog for awhile, but I've been so busy reading! The long, hot, days of summer are made for relaxing with a good book. So, if you are looking for some ideas on what to take on that vacation, here are some suggestions.

Two of the books I've recently finished were by authors I was introduced to through the book club. I read Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult, an author whose writing has a way of involving the reader in the characters' lives, people who seem real enough to be neighbors on the same block. This book took on the sensitive subject matter of a high school shooting in a relatively small town. The event exposes the frailty within human relationships, and the many ways our lives are intermingled. This book was hard to put down once I started to read it.

Another author, Bill Bryson, we had read as a group some time ago with the selection of A Walk in the Woods. This time I chose The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, a book described as a memoir of the author. While it had some of the same sense of humor that made reading 'Woods' so fun, it did not have the same sense of adventure, and in the end I was a bit disappointed.

However, I had picked up a copy of Marley and Me, by John Grogan, a bestseller about "life and love with the world's worst dog." Who doesn't like puppies? Anyway, I had not seen the movie based on the book, but while reading it thought that I would like to. This was an engaging story, not only about the dog, but about the family that grows up around the pet, a pet that seems bent on creating disruption and havoc. You can expect some examples of love and loyalty within the pages of this book.

So, happy summer! happy reading!

Monday, June 28, 2010

June Meeting

Hi Everyone. I missed the June meeting, and the discussion of Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky, so I have little to report about it.

Maybe someone who had been to the meeting could leave a comment of how it went?

Otherwise, we are starting into the July book-of-the-month selection, which will be: Still Alice, by Lisa Genova. This had been previously scheduled to be the book for June, so if you read it in advance, you will be that much more ahead!

For July we will be having to make some alternate accommodations for meeting, since our usual room will be unavailable. Stay tuned for more info as things become settled.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

May Meeting Follow-up

Our book for the month of May was Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks. Nine members were present for a great discussion of the novel, best described as an historical fiction about the bubonic plague.

Having not attended the meeting, I am not able to provide many details about the discussion. If you are interested in knowing more about the book, I would refer you to the author's website: While you are there, be sure to read more about the author, who began a career in journalism before rethinking her future goals after being jailed for doing her job.

A previous book on our club's reading list was the novel, March, which was written by the same author, and many in the group found to be entertaining.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Taliesin News

Because of the popularity of Loving Frank: A Novel, (our book selection for last February), Taliesin has initiated a new tour of the grounds specifically related to the details of the book.

Called the Loving Frank Tour, it is to be held on the second and fourth Fridays of each month from May through October. It will include readings from the book and a stop at a nearby cemetery to see Mamah Borthwick's grave.

Learn more from the Taliesin web site at:

According to a news blurb in the Pioneer Press, (April 26, 2010), visits to the home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright had record attendance last season to the tune of about 28,500 people. The surge in interest has been credited to the novel by Nancy Horan.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Important Update

A couple of changes have been made to our meeting schedule due to members planning summer vacations. The books for the months of June and July will be flipped, so that the revised summer schedule will be:
  • May 25 - Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks,
  • June 22 - Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky
  • July 27 - Still Alice, Lisa Genova, and
  • August 24 - Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich
Also, our current plans for the July meeting will be to assemble outside of the library. Look for us that month enjoying the summer evening air.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Other Hand

Everyone LOVED this month's selection, Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. And this says much for the book since we had a sizeable turnout of readers at last night's meeting - maybe our largest group yet.

Originally titled The Other Hand, (although admidst much speculation, none of us were able to determine why), the book provided us with many topics of discussion. Comments ranged from ways we pamper ourselves during times of stress, to defining right and wrong relationships, to current immigration policies, including the status of new immigration laws in Arizona.

We touched on topics of courage, sacrifice, hope, maturity, faith, fear, and guilt, among others. We all found the character of Little Bee to be delightful and enjoyable to follow. She taught us that our scars are a thing of beauty, because they are proof of being a survivor. We were saddened at the end of the story. This is a book that helps the reader to learn a little bit more about themself.

More about the author, his blog, and his other projects can be found on his web site:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Upcoming Reading List

Our next meeting will be Tuesday, April 27th, 6:30 p.m., at the library. We will be discussing the book, Little Bee, by Chris Cleave.

Books for the summer will be:
  • May - Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks
  • June - Still Alice, by Lisa Genova
  • July - Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky
  • August - Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich

We look forward to some inspiring reading! Come join us.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

After the Snow Melts

We were a slightly smaller group that met on Tuesday to discuss the book Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson. But, then, it was one of the more perfect beginning-of-spring afternoons.

Our overall opinion of the book was favorable, but a few people thought that the story moved too slow, or did not go far enough into certain scenes. Several comments were made about the book having a disappointing ending. A few of us read the book a second time for the meeting and found it more appealing to reread.

Our conversation was lively, however. It was interesting to compare our perceptions of the story. As we discussed different parts, such as the relationship of Trond's father with Lars' mother, we found ourselves clarifying portions of the story to each other. Some of this was due to the order in which the story was told, which someone aptly described as the unfolding of memories as they happen in life.

For us, living in a similar climate, it was easy to relate to the story that takes place in Norway and Sweden. And to those of us, like Cora, who have Norwegians in their family, the characters were understandable and lifelike.

Visit Per Petterson's web site and blog for this and more books authored by him at View more reviews of the book as a featured staff pick from the famous Powell's books web site.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Famous Cat Named Oscar

When we met to talk about Dewey the library cat last December, other cats in the news were brought up in the conversation. One of them was a nursing home cat, who accurately predicted when residents of the home were soon to pass away.

Now there is a book about that cat, titled Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat. The book was written by David Dosa, M.D., a geriatrician working at the home where the cat's predictions took place.

Originally, Dr. Dosa had written a short article about Oscar the cat which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. (Read the excerpt by following this link.) When much publicity followed, the doctor compiled more his own experiences working with Oscar and his special gifts, to write this book.

If you are interested in learning more, visit the author's web site:, which contains links to more things about Oscar, including articles and videos. Reviews of the book include comments from Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants, a book previously on our reading list.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March Springs Forward

Just a reminder that our next meeting is scheduled for the fourth Tuesday of this month, March 23rd. This will be after Daylight Saving Time takes place, since it is scheduled for Sunday, March 14th this year. Don't forget to set your clocks!

In my memory, Daylight Saving Time has usually taken place on either the first or last Sunday of April. This year is different, but it will bring us later sunsets two weeks earlier than we are used to. With this wonderful springlike weather we are having this week, I am all for having more daylight!

To be perfectly accurate, however, I should mention that news announced yesterday stated how our days have been shortened by the power of the earthquake in Chile. According to NASA, Chile's earthquake not only shortened our day (by 1.26 millionth of a second), but it also shifted the Earth's axis.

If you want to read more on the topic, one suggestion is an article from Time magazine: "How Chili's Earthquake Shortened Earth's Day."

Or, see the story in National Geographic: "Chili Earthquake Altered Earth Axis, Shortened Day."

Or, if you are just interested in knowing the current accurate time, visit the official U.S. Time web site at:, which includes links to interesting information about clocks, calendars, and time keeping, plus facts and figures about Daylight Saving Time.

Oh, and our meeting will be 6:30 p.m. at the library. Our book this month is Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson.

See you there.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Valentine Tome

We met to discuss Loving Frank, a fictionalized biography of renown architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his love affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, written by Nancy Horan Drew.

The book gave us much to talk about. We marveled at the author's writing skills in blending fact and fiction to bring the story to life. We were impressed at the amount of time she had spent in research for the book. And many of us thought the facts of the story would be more palatable as fiction, and the fiction may be better to be read as fact.

The slogan of 'life as truth' that was central to the main characters' attitudes provided us friendly debate about the essence of the story. Were Frank and Mamah being true to themselves, in spite of the destruction they created to those around them? Or, should societal mores play the larger role in each of our lives? Is being true to yourself also selfish? Is it better to be selfish than unhappy?

The subject of women's rights was a strong theme throughout the book. We compared the differences of what women struggled with one hundred years ago versus how we struggle today. Some things, such as voting rights, significantly differ. Other things, such as equal pay, women are still trying to achieve.

This book gave almost all of us an eye-opening perspective on the man regarded as one of the world's greatest architects. We talked about whether privilege excuses eccentricity, whether fame excuses entitlement, and whether someone's artistry and drive excuses their responsibilities to uphold societal rules. It was easy to introduce names from today's headlines for comparisons.

There are a lot of online resources for more information:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Catalog is Here!

Have you received your District 833 Community Education catalog yet? (If not, a pdf version is available on the website It is chock-full of fun and interesting classes and programs for youth and adult enrichment.

Some of the classes, particularly in exercise and dance, are offered as a series of two to six sessions. But most of the offerings are from one to four hours of time! This is a great way to test the waters for developing a new hobby. Or, attend a seminar for inspiration on changing a lifetime habit.

Learn to make soap, bake a Shepherd's Pie, write your own will, or design a bonsai tree! There are so many things to pick from.

If you haven't tried it before, I would really like to direct your attention to the Laughter Workshop session. Who knew that so much fun could be so healthy? This is a class that no one should miss - no matter what kind of day you've been having, you will leave feeling great. Take a friend, a family member, or go by yourself, you won't regret it.

Find out more about laughter workshops (also known as laughter yoga), at the following websites:

Have fun!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cold Snow and Frazzle

We greeted two new faces at our gathering Tuesday night, meeting to discuss Smilla's Sense of Snow, by Peter Hoeg. We relocated to an area behind the children's section in the back of the library for the night, and carried on in spirited and lively conversation. The book gave us much to talk about, even allowing us to venture into suggestions for casting a remake of the movie based on the book.

Our opinions of the book ran the full gamut, from those who loved the book, many who liked the book, and a few who hated the book. Most everyone agreed that it was a difficult read, for reasons of wordiness, confusing plot structure, and too much scientific detail.

The story seemed to stray from its plot so often that many of us could not follow its intent. One of our group admitted to falling asleep whenever she started reading the book. More than once we questioned whether part of the problem with understanding the story was due to the book being translated from the author's native Danish.

But, even with the difficulties, most of us felt that reading the book presented a worthy challenge, and all but one, (who happens to be me), finished reading it to the end. The story line twist at the book's conclusion caught most everyone off guard, resulting in reactions that a mystery thriller turned into a science fiction story.

Many positive comments were made on the value of learning so much about Greenland, Denmark, and the Inuit people of the Canadian Arctic.

If our reactions whet your appetite to know more, a comprehensive description of the book, more details, information, and other links can be found on Smilla's own page of wikipedia, just by clicking here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Winter Jackets to Start Soon!

The transition to January is often a time for making New Year’s resolutions. While the snow piling up outside of our windows is a reminder that now might not be the best time to begin those outdoor exercises, we can always stay warm and cozy inside. This is a good time for reading!

Our book club has a great selection for this month, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, by Peter Hoeg. (Which we will meet to discuss on the 26th at the library.) But, don’t forget about the library’s Winter Jackets program. Find out more on the library’s web site, (link here).

And, best of all, each book review you submit is an entry for a possibility to win a prize!