Friday, November 17, 2017

If you enjoyed H is for Hawk . . .

If you enjoyed H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, which we read in 2016, then you might like to watch a recent episode of the PBS program Nature, "H is for Hawk: A New Chapter" in which Macdonald explores the world of goshawks by following a family of these raptors in the wild and raising another goshawk of her own.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Readalikes: If you enjoyed November's selection . . .

If you enjoyed Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King, then you might like these books and films recommended by our discussion group members:


  • The Judgement of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism by Ross King
  • The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe
  • Linnea in Monet's Garden by Cristine Bjork and Lena Anderson
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
  • Francois le Champi by Georges Sand
  • The Torture Garden by Octave Mirbeau
  • "The White Waterlily" by Stephane Mallarme
  • The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough
  • Lust for Life: The Novel of Vincent Van Gogh by Irving Stone
  • Depths of Glory: The Novel of Camille Pisarro by Irving Stone
  • The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
  • Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell


  • Midnight in Paris written and directed by Woody Allen
  • Loving Vincent directed by Doreta Kobiela and Hugh Welchman

Monday, November 6, 2017

November Not Fiction Book Discussions

In conversation with his publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing, author and art historian Ross King said, "Most of my books have been studies of crucial and difficult moments in the lives of artists. I'm interested in drilling down deeply into the years when they struggle with the works that ultimately become their greatest achievements. I'm fascinated by how historical events and personal relationships have an impact on these masterpieces." In Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies, King explores in expansive biographical, historical, and cultural detail the twelve years during which Claude Monet painted the enormous canvasses of his Water Lilies series.

Monet intended for his Water Lilies paintings, ultimately gifted to the French public and housed in the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris, to be "an asylum of peaceful meditation." However, in these last twelve years of his life, he was troubled by the dangers and privations of World War I, the loss of friends and family to age and illness, his own failing eyesight, and challenges to his artistic prominence by a new generation of artists. Most of all, Monet was challenged by his attempt to create for his viewers a fully immersive experience of the moment-to-moment shifting of light, color, and form that he perceived at his beloved lily ponds at Giverny. Like author Marcel Proust in his massive novel In Search of Lost Time, Monet was attempting to capture time itself. 

What do you think? Were you familiar with Monet's Water Lilies before reading Mad Enchantment? Have you seen them in person? What were your thoughts and feelings about these paintings before reading King's book? How has your understanding of this work changed after reading the book? What kind of person was Claude Monet? Did anything about his life or personality surprise you? What was the importance of family and friendship, especially his friendship with journalist and politician Georges Clemenceau, to his late work and reputation? How do the Water Lilies reflect their historical and cultural moment? What did Monet's contemporary, the writer Henri Ghéon, mean when he said that Monet "paints in time"? To what degree do you think Monet's loss of vision affected the style of his late paintings, and to what degree "his determination to push the boundaries of painting," his "mad enchantment" with the "luminous abyss" of his water lily ponds, or his suppression of the female image? How do you explain the rise and fall and rise again of Monet's popularity and artistic reputation as well as that of Impressionism in general? What is Monet's legacy to the history of art? Do you think he would be pleased with this legacy?

Enjoy a virtual visit with the Water Lilies at the Musée de l'Orangerie.

We hope you will join the discussion: Tuesday, November 7, at 6:30 p.m. at Main Library; Thursday, November 16, at 11:00 a.m. at the Earth Fare Café (the West Ashley Branch Library is closed until further notice due to Tropical Storm Irma).

Monday, October 30, 2017

Juliet Nicolson, author of A House Full of Daughters, to speak in Charleston Friday, November 3

Juliet Nicolson, the author of our selection for August, A House Full of Daughters: A Memoir of Seven Generations, will be speaking this Friday, November 3, at the Charleston to Charleston Literary Festival:


  • St. Stephen's Episcopal Church 
Charleston UK and Charleston SC epitomize the theory of six degrees of separation. Charles Anson and Juliet Nicolson, who live close to Charleston, Sussex, have unexpected local connections and will share their tales at a historic church in downtown Charleston's historic Ansonborough district. Stay for the reception to meet author Edward Ball.
Tickets: $25
Lecture & Reception: $50

Visit for more information.

Thanks to our discussion group member Isabel for sharing this information with the group!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Readalikes: If you enjoyed October's selection . . .

If you enjoyed Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey, then you might also enjoy these books and films recommended by our discussion group members, some of which are based on real places and events profiled in Ghostland:

  • Anything by Edgar Allan Poe. Of course!
  • The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The Woman in White and The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  • The Turn of the Screw and other ghost stories by Henry James
  • The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
  • Cult classic Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy, photographs by Charles Van Schaik
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  • The Shining by Stephen King and the film. Of course!
  • Stranger Things television show. Second season airs Friday, October 27, 2017!
  • Twin Peaks television show. And really any film by David Lynch.
  • The Serafina series of books by Robert Beatty
  • Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series of books by Ransom Riggs
  • Home by Bill Bryson
  • This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust
  • Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Thursday, October 19 discussion moved to Earth Fare Café

Due to Tropical Storm Irma, the West Ashley Branch Library will remain closed until further notice. The Not Fiction Book Discussion scheduled at that branch for Thursday, October 19, 2017, will be held at the Earth Fare Café in the South Windermere Shopping Center at the regular meeting time of 11:00 a.m. We will be discussing Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey.

We hope you will join the discussion!

Monday, October 2, 2017

October Not Fiction Book Discussions

Autumn has arrived, and with it, thoughts of Halloween and haunted houses. In Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places, Colin Dickey asks, "how do we deal with stories about the dead and their ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed haunted?"

Dickey visited supposedly haunted places across America, including both private and public spaces. He delves into the factual history of these spaces, and he also explores the common tropes found in their ghost stories, using both popular culture and literary classics as examples, noting that "Ultimately, this book is about the relationship between place and story: how the two depend on each other and how they bring each other alive." He is not concerned with whether ghosts exist or not, but rather with human beings' persistent need to tell these stories and how the stories evolve as time passes. He cites Sigmund Freud's concept of the "uncanny," in which a place that is unsettling in any way becomes a container for the unsettled feelings we might have about events that have occurred there. Charleston, of course, has many old and, to some, uncanny places. Dickey visits the churchyard of the Unitarian Church and Magnolia Cemetery, helping us understand how ghost stories grew up around the transition from burial in centrally located churchyards to suburban garden cemeteries. Dickey also explores the real identity of Edgar Allen Poe's Annabel Lee and the protagonist of his story The Gold Bug, set on Sullivan's Island.

What do you think? Whether or not you believe in ghosts, is there a place you have visited that felt uncanny to you? Can you explain its effect on you? Is there a place from your hometown that was rumored to be haunted? What are the historical facts and what are the ghost story tropes related to this place? Has the story shifted over time? As the American landscape changes with time, what spaces do you think will come to seem haunted? What ghost stories will we tell in the future? Why? Does Dickey's explanation of the relationship between place and story as the source of our ghost tales ring true to you? Why do you think we continue to tell these tales even as our ability to use technology to determine the facts of a situation evolve? We tell these stories at least in part as entertainment . . . why do we enjoy being scared?!

We hope you will join the discussion: Tuesday, October 3, at 6:30 p.m. at Main Library; Thursday, October 19, at 11:00 a.m. at Earth Fare Café in the South Windermere Shopping Center (the West Ashley Branch Library is closed until further notice due to damage from Tropical Storm Irma); and here on the blog.