March 2014 Book Club Discussion and New Selection

Sigma Kappa Book ClubWelcome to our Virtual Sigma Kappa Book Club! Be sure to visit us on Goodreads, and please join our Sigma Kappa Group! Even if you can’t participate in our book discussion, join the group and meet a new reader.

malalaOur book selection for what turned into January and February 2014 was the New York Times bestselling memoir, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. This book has been so incredibly popular, it took me at least three weeks to get the book from my library, and I’m a librarian! I hope the extra time we took for book club gave you extra time to not only get the book, but read it, think about it, and want to just share your thoughts about it!

While I do love biographies and memoirs, this isn’t the kind of book I would normally pick up. I was hesitant I would like the story, and yet, I was completely surprised! I couldn’t put this book down once I got involved in Malala’s story, so I finished it in a few days. I also read the reviews, watched her videos, and did a bit of research about A World at School. Fascinating and enlightening to learn about people who seem so very far away, yet just want to go to school.

The most influential part I found was that no matter what others told her, Malala never gave up. She fought for her rights as both a young woman and a student in what came to be a discriminatory and war-torn country. I also found the history of this area to be both fascinating and puzzling. I became completely aware of how lucky I am in America to have the rights I do as a person, woman and student, and just how much others in this world just don’t have those same standards. I found some of the writing to be a bit terse, perhaps that came as a result of the story being told and written through her co-writer. There were moments of confusion because the political structure of this area is always changing, and those were some of the parts I tended to have to re-read. Overall, I was simply surprised, and I really enjoyed this read. Thanks Sigma Kappa members for the suggestion!

What are your overall impressions of this book? Were you surprised? Would you have chosen this on your own?

What do you think of Malala’s story? Would you have done what she did by continuing to go to school, despite the situation?

Do you find this story has increased your awareness of global education, the area of Swat, women’s rights, or other topics?

How do you think her parents’ positive influence in her life had an impact on her decisions?

If you could ask Malala any question, or talk to her about any topic, what would you choose and why?

There is some controversy about this book, some claim it has been overinflated or puffed up to add drama. Others in her native country have protested her movement. This article explains some of the controversy. What do you think? I found her Wikipedia article interesting and it gave some good links to other stories.


Our March 2014 selection is from one of my favorite authors and on the lighter side — Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner. I have yet to dislike one of her books, and I find she is a smart and intelligent writer for women who like funny, clever characters or over-the-top scenarios and situations. Fly Away Home is available in paperback and e-book edition, as well as the library, and was first issued in 2010.

The book tells the story of a political mogul, his wife and children who find themselves in the midst of a heated scandal. However, this is also a book about mothers and daughters and their relationship with each other. It’s a book I hope will make you turn the pages and want to talk about with someone as soon as you finish!

Visit Jennifer Weiner’s website and learn more about her writing, personality, and what she has in the works. Jennifer Weiner also is pretty active on Goodreads and Twitter. She is a bit silly, and fun.

Enjoy the book and see you in April!


New Sigma Kappa Book Club!

Sigma Kappa Book ClubStaring Nov. 1, the Live Sigma Kappa Blog will be launching its very own virtual book club. Each month, a new book will be announced. I will pose discussion questions for us to think about at the end of my post. Once you read the book, please add your thoughts or questions to the comments section. My goal is to introduce new books and authors to SK readers while perhaps providing a new idea about the book we read.

Wild Book Cover

Our first book will be Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed. You can visit the author’s website or check it out on Google Books where you find out where to purchase the book or get it at your local library.

It was an Oprah book club selection, however, this isn’t my reason for choosing the book. I have a personal love of memoirs, and this one has been in my to-read pile for quite some time, always calling out to me! This memoir is about a woman who is grieving the loss of her mother, a divorce, drugs, and an otherwise chaotic and unsettling life. Her discoveries and personal journey of endurance and perseverance are throughout her story as she treks along the entire Pacific Crest Trail. You can see videos and read an excerpt on her website to get a sample of the book’s first chapter. It is a New York Times bestseller and has been an acclaimed novel on many lists and sites, including being a Goodreads Reader’s Choice for 2012. If you are on Goodreads, please join our Sigma Kappa Group! Goodreads is a social site for book lovers and readers. You can see what your friends are reading, keep track of the books you read or want to read, and more. You can link Goodreads with your Facebook account, among several other sites. We already have a small number of members, but we would love to have more.

While reading Wild, you may want to learn more about the Pacific Crest Trail, a hiking trail that spans three states and borders both Canada and Mexico. Check out the US Deptartment of Agriculture where you can view an interactive map and learn the history. Visit the Pacific Crest Trail Association to learn about a nonprofit group that preserves and protects the trail. Watch a PBS special about a couple who rides horses from the start to the finish of the trail in one year, a feat everyone said could not be done.

Happy Reading! Please check in with us on Dec. 1 and tell us what you thought of the book! You can also email me with questions or suggestions for future picks.

School Supplies and Summer Reading

The crisp opening and binding crack of a never before read book reminds me of biting into a juicy piece of fruit. It’s absolutely delicious.  It is why I haven’t transitioned all my reading to an E-Reader.  I would miss that smell of the paper too much.   I have to say, I was a complete booknerd and had the same feeling about a school textbook…but only when I received the brand new textbook, because it had so much possibility!  No one else had smudged their dirty fingers on the pages or written their name on the inside cover. It was all mine, even if I didn’t really enjoy the content inside.

There is a great quote from one of my favorite movies, “You’ve Got Mail” in which Tom Hanks is writing an email to his then unknown love, Meg Ryan about the start of fall in New York City.  He says, “Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”  Yes!  I love school supplies!  I want to buy that newly sharpened bouquet of pencils every time the end of summer comes around.  It reminds me of those brand new books I can’t wait to read.  It also reminds me of the books I didn’t get around to reading that were on the summer reading list.

Working in youth services at a public library means there are tons of requests for books on the summer reading list.  I love to scour these different lists to check off what I’ve read and to also see what unusual titles make the lists.  The best this year I found was The Crucible by Arthur Miller on a junior high/middle school list.  Yes, you heard right, a college level book usually found in American Literature classes Freshman year was found on a middle school list.  I have a BA degree in English and I didn’t read Arthur Miller until college.  I was very surprised.

I also thought it would be fun to take an informal poll amongst friends to find out what books they enjoyed most that were on their summer reading lists.  Have you read all of these books?  Did any of these books stick with you even today as an adult? Perhaps there was one you dredged through but ended up appreciating later on?

I have two books that make my all-time favorites and strangely, I was assigned to read them sophomore year in high school English;  The Catcher in the Rye and The Old Man and the Sea.  I love the wit and dry humor of The Catcher in the Rye and I think Salinger is one of the great American authors in modern times.  It’s definitely a character driven novel, and I love how he captures this young boy’s whining, his torments, and his anguish.  The Old Man and the Sea introduced me to the greatness of Hemingway.  Such a simple tale told in such carefully crafted simple prose, makes this a truly remarkable book.  Interestingly, both are male authors telling the story of one male figure, which is not a typical story I would be able to relate to.  However, when you look deeper at the symbolism and depth of human nature written about, it makes sense why I would love these books.

I did some digging to find the most assigned summer reading books and came up with so many choices, there could have been a list of 100 books.  I thought this was an interesting list from the Illinois State Library’s Read for a Lifetime program which appears to cover mostly contemporary literature.  Although now a bit old, this list from the Washington Post is a great mix of classics and contemporary authors.

Here are my top choices for summer reading catch-up ideas (aside from Salinger and Hemingway, which yes, you MUST read!).  I also included a list of the books that came about from the poll I took.  What would be your top books?

If you must give someone Charles Dickens, then give them A Tale of Two Cities.  War, love, Paris, nothing but the essentials of a great novel. One of my favorites of all time and a great book for British Lit lovers. Learn more about Dickens at Victorian Web.  Another fantastic family and semi-suedo-historical saga is East of Eden by John Steinbeck which has great scandal and family squabbles.  If I ever make it to Monterey Bay area, I will definitely put the National Steinbeck Center on my tour.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, or Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  You can also try The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins  or Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Even if you are not a science fiction/fantasy fan, read one of these fantastic books and you will be transformed. They will make you think more about the world in which we live and how we as humans react and interact.  Check out the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s of America website for even more ideas.

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening or Virginia Wolf’s To the Lighthouse will provide a beautiful read into the lives of women in literature.  Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is another great insight into women’s literature.  While these are not necessarily happy-ending books, they will definitely have you think about and explore how emotions and struggles were once experiences and shared.  For more interesting women writers and topics try the National Archives.

Read a memoir or biography, even if it’s fiction.  A book like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is one example of a fictional story told from the perspective of a young boy who lost his father on September 11th.  Even though it’s not true, you are instantly in this boy’s world.  You realize his story could be anyone’s in search of understanding an influential person in life.  Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos is a great read along with The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, all three a bit of coming of age combined with overcoming struggles stories with a bit of a fictional twist thrown in there. All are highly engrossing and entertaining.  For more biographies and memories, try this page on the Barnes and Noble website.

Other popular books that made the “Favorite High School Required Reading” from my informal pool were:

  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  • The Scarlett Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee Harper
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Jungle by John Updike

I hope these ideas have brought back some great reading memories or inspired a new interest in your reading tastes!  If you have more ideas, I would love to hear them in the comments.