The Classic Book Discussion Series is a new program at the Covington Branch designed to provide readers with the opportunity to discuss books that have proved to be of enduring interest. This season’s discussions began in September with Sinclair Lewis’ “Main Street” and will continue with one discussion each month, concluding in May with a modern retelling of the ancient story of “The Ramayana” by South Asian author R. K. Narayan. Diversity was an important selection criterion for the books we selected. The time range of the titles extends from 405 B.C. when Aristophanes’ prize winning play, “The Frogs” first appeared on the Greek stage to 1963 A.D. when Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking “The Feminine Mystique” appeared on bookstore shelves. The settings span the globe from Minnesota to the Kingdom of Ayodhya in India. The titles to be discussed were selected from a long list of suggestions made by library staff members. The works selected include imaginative literature in the form of novels, plays and fiction, as well as nonfiction titles concerning issues in science and society. Each discussion is led by a different staff member with a particular interest in the book. Refreshments are always provided, with an eye towards what we are discussing –for example, at the December discussion of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, an English Christmas pudding was served. Unlike traditional book clubs, it is not expected that attendees will read all, or even most, of the books and many people will come only for one or two books that particularly interest them, but it is hoped that many will wish to broaden their horizons by coming to several discussions.
September 18 Sinclair Lewis’ “Main Street.” was a literary sensation and outraged many when it appeared in 1920 and still helps shape our view of small town American society.
October 16 Aristophanes’, award winning play (Lenaea Festival, 405 B.C.), “The Frogs”, is one the best known plays by the greatest comic writer of ancient Greece and one of the greatest comic writers of all times. An Adaptation of the Frogs appeared on Broadway as a Stephen Sondheim musical in 2004.
November 20 Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” published in 1962 provoked much discussion and rethinking within the scientific community and beyond and “introduced the concept of a “paradigm shift” which became commonplace in the sciences and many other fields of knowledge.
December 11 Published in 1843 Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol became the best known Christmas story in the English speaking world and revived the celebration of Christmas which had been in decline in England.
January 15 Jean-Paul Sartre’s play” No Exit”, first performed in occupied France in 1944, is considered by many to be Sartre’s best play and most accessible dramatization of his philosophy of existentialism. Three damned souls are brought to the same room in hell and find out what hell really means.
February 19 Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique,” published in 1963, is widely credited with sparking the beginning of second-wave feminism in the United States. Friedan became the first president of the National Organization for Women.
March 19 Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary is a seminal masterpiece of realism. With its art lying in small details, precise words, and hidden meanings Flaubert tells a chilling tale set in a bleak town in Normandy.
April 16 In “The Souls of Black Folk” W.E.B. Du Bois’ drew on his own experiences to communicate what it was like to be an African-American in this 1903 classic of sociology.
May 21 Master novelist R. K. Narayan created this short version of the Ramayana, a story of abduction, battle, and courtship in a world of deities and demons composed in India in the Fourth Century B.C.
This blog was written by Steve Albert, Adult Services Department, Covington Branch