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Between the Lines Book Group
The Between the Lines Book Group meets at the Endicott Branch the third Tuesday of every month at 7:00 PM.
Books may be picked up at both our Main and Endicott Branch no less than a month before each meeting.
Clicking on the book's title will bring you to our catalogue where you may place a hold on the item for pick up at your local library.
Each section on this page details the book we will be discussing that month and gives possible discussion questions to guide your reading.
Please feel free to reach out to Lisa Desmond for any questions or concerns.
Tangled up in Blue by
Publication Date: 2021-02-09
"Journalist and law professor Rosa Brooks goes beyond the "blue wall of silence" in this radical inside examination of American policing" -- Amazon.com.
"A radical inside examination of policing in modern America, from a Georgetown University law professor turned reserve police officer"-- Provided by publisher.
The Yellow House by
Publication Date: 2019-08-13
"A book of great ambition, Sarah M. Broom's The Yellow House tells a hundred years of her family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America's most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother's struggle against a house's entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina. The Yellow House expands the map of New Orleans to include the stories of its lesser known natives, guided deftly by one of its native daughters, to demonstrate how enduring drives of clan, pride, and familial love resist and defy erasure. Located in the gap between the "Big Easy" of tourist guides and the New Orleans in which Broom was raised, The Yellow House is a brilliant memoir of place, class, race, the seeping rot of inequality, and the internalized shame that often follows. It is a transformative, deeply moving story from an unparalleled new voice of startling clarity, authority, and power." -- Publisher's website.
Book discussion questions:
Were you immediately engaged with the book, or did it take you a while?
Does the book remind you of any other books or writers?
Who is your favorite character?
Describe the main characters personality traits:
How has the past shaped their lives?
Do you admire or disapprove of them?
Do they remind you of people you know?
Discuss the plot:
Is the story interesting?
Is the story plot driven?
Is the book a "page turner" or does it unfold slowly?
Discuss the book’s structure:
Does the time line move forward chronologically?
Is it a continuous story – or is it interlocking short stories?
Is there a single viewpoint or shifting viewpoints?
Why did the author tell the story this way?
What main ideas or themes does the author explore?
If you were to guess at a formative experience in the author’s life based on this book, what would you guess?
If you were to sum up this book in one tweet, what would you say in 140 characters?
Is the ending satisfying? Has the book changed you? Have you learned something?
Talking to Strangers by
Publication Date: 2019-09-10
In this thoughtful treatise spurred by the 2015 death of African-American academic Sandra Bland in jail after a traffic stop, New Yorker writer Gladwell (The Tipping Point) aims to figure out the strategies people use to assess strangers-to "analyze, critique them, figure out where they came from, figure out how to fix them," in other words: to understand how to balance trust and safety. He uses a variety of examples from history and recent headlines to illustrate that people size up the motivations, emotions, and trustworthiness of those they don't know both wrongly and with misplaced confidence.
There are many stories in the book. Which one impacted you the most?
The book is based on the ‘default to truth’ theory. Do you agree with it? Can you think of examples of when you ‘default to untruth’?
Gladwell wrote, “We fall out of truth-default mode only when the case against our initial assumption becomes definitive.” Do you have good examples from your life when the truth-default scales tipped over for you?
The bail judgment AI system has been shown to perform 25% better than human judges. Do you think we should reduce human judgment and increase the AI system’s role in our judicial system?
The “Holy Fool” is a truth-teller because he is an outcast & blurts out inconvenient truths or questions things the rest of us take for granted. Have you encountered a “Holy Fool”? What inconvenient truths did they blurt out?
After you read this book, what would you do differently when talking to the next stranger?
Has the book changed the way you see yourself?
The author wrote, “alcohol’s principal effect is to narrow our emotional and mental fields of vision. It makes the immediate aspects of the experience have a disproportionate influence on behavior and emotion.” Has this book changed your views about alcohol and its place in our culture? What do you think should be done to minimize the damage that alcohol will cause in the future?
How do you make sense of the statistic that 77 out of 114 soldiers falsely identified their interrogators in a photo lineup? If torture changes the mind so much, how can we reliably get critical information from the captured enemies?
515 people who tried to jump from the SF Golden Gate bridge had been unexpectedly restrained. Just 25 of them persisted in killing themselves some other way. Do you agree that suicide is coupled? Why is it tough for us to accept the idea that a behavior can be so tightly coupled to a place?
Firearm suicides make two-thirds of all gun deaths and half of the suicides in the US. The US firearm suicide rate is 10 times that of other high-income countries. Do you think that US suicide is coupled to the firearm, or is it the other way around, that firearm suicide is coupled to the USA? What can we do about this?
How has reading the book affected your views on the victimization of unarmed black people (Sandra Bland & Ferguson) to women & children being sexually assaulted at colleges (Brock Turner & Sandusky)? Do you agree with Gladwell that these are mere “communication” issues between strangers?
Gladwell is saying that the riots in Ferguson, Mo., are not about race, but about “a particular style of policing that had been practiced in the city for years.” Police officers approach civilians on the flimsiest of pretexts, looking for a needle in a haystack, resulting in obliteration of trust between police and community. What’s your take on this issue?
What problems does the author identify in our society that hasn’t been discussed?
Publication Date: 2017-09-19
"From the beet fields of North Dakota to the National Forest campgrounds of California to Amazon's CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that social security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads: migrant laborers who call themselves "workampers." In a secondhand vehicle she christens "Van Halen," Jessica Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects more intimately. Accompanying her irrepressible protagonist, Linda May, and others, from campground toilet cleaning to warehouse product scanning to desert reunions, then moving on to the dangerous work of beet harvesting, Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy--one that foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us. At the same time, she celebrates the exceptional resilience and creativity of these quintessential Americans who have given up ordinary rootedness to survive. Like Linda May, who dreams of finding land on which to build her own sustainable "Earthship" home, they have not given up hope."--Jacket flap.
Employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that social security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads: migrant laborers who call themselves "workampers." Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects, accompanying them from job to job in the dark underbelly of the American economy, while celebrating their resilience and creativity.
1. What parts of becoming a “workamper” do you think would be hardest to adapt to? What
would be easiest?
2. What aspects of the itinerant lifestyle does the author celebrate or criticize? What aspects
of society more broadly?
3. What was the most surprising, intriguing or difficult to understand about the people living
the nomadic life?
4. What parts of “workamper” life or our wider culture do you wish the author had examined
in more depth?
5. Can you point to a specific part of the book, a particular person’s story or an anecdote,
which struck you personally--as interesting, profound, silly, shallow, incomprensible, or
6. In her travels, Bruder came across a Kurt Vonnegut quote which van-dwellers share:
“Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and
virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are
told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters.”
Do you believe this to be true? Why or why not?
7. Does the author--or can you--offer solutions to the problems or issues raised in the book?
Who would implement those solutions? How probable is success?
8. When Bruder drove her own van home to Brooklyn, she began to notice vans she hadn’t
noticed before--parked on a residential street, in a gas station, a store lot. Has reading this
book made you more aware of anything like this or people around you?
9. Linda May lives the nomadic life, but dreams of building an “earthship” and settling down. If
economic circumstances improved for the people profiled in this book, do you believe many
of them would go back to their former ways of life?
10. After reading this book, have you gained a new perspective--or did the book affirm your
Britt-Marie Was Here by
Publication Date: 2016-05-03
Britt-Marie can't stand mess. She eats dinner at precisely the right time and starts her day at six in the morning because only lunatics wake up later than that. And she is not passive-aggressive. Not in the least. It's just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention. But at sixty-three, Britt-Marie has had enough. She finally walks out on her loveless forty-year marriage and finds a job in the only place she can: Borg, a small, derelict town devastated by the financial crisis. For the fastidious Britt-Marie, this new world of noisy children, muddy floors, and a roommate who is a rat (literally), is a hard adjustment. As for the citizens of Borg, with everything that they know crumbling around them, the only thing that they have left to hold onto is something Britt-Marie absolutely loathes: their love of soccer. When the village's youth team becomes desperate for a coach, they set their sights on her. She's the least likely candidate, but their need is obvious and there is no one else to do it. Thus begins a beautiful and unlikely partnership. In her new role as reluctant mentor to these lost young boys and girls, Britt-Marie soon finds herself becoming increasingly vital to the community. And even more surprisingly, she is the object of romantic desire for a friendly and handsome local policeman named Sven. In this world of oddballs and misfits, can Britt-Marie finally find a place where she belongs?
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. How is Britt-Marie’s character revealed by her interactions with the people in Borg? In what ways do Borg’s citizens change Britt-Marie? Use specific examples to demonstrate your point.
2. Think about the children on Borg’s soccer team: to what extent are they responsible for Britt-Marie’s growth, and how? Does one particular child have greater influence on Britt-Marie than the others? If so, who, and why?
3. Describe the book’s narrative style. How would you characterize it? How does it play into your perception of Britt-Marie, or influence your understanding of events?
4. “She has difficulties remembering the last time she said anything at all, until one day she left him without a word. Because of this it always feels like the whole thing was her fault” (page 151). Communication plays an important role in any relationship, and Britt-Marie’s reflection on her own silence raises a curious point; to what extent do you think Britt-Marie contributed to the unraveling of her and Kent’s relationship with her silence? How much blame, if any, can fall on the shoulders of only one person in these cases?
5. Britt-Marie is a curious combination of strength and assertiveness mixed with anxiety and shyness. How are these seemingly opposing qualities related to each other in Britt-Marie, like two sides of the same coin?
6. How have Britt-Marie’s experiences as a girl and a young woman made her into the woman she is at the start of the novel? Did learning about her childhood change the way you felt about her as a character? Is there a larger message here about forming judgments of people we encounter without knowing their full story?
7. When we first meet her, Britt-Marie seems to be a fairly traditional, conservative person, yet in the course of the novel she is exposed to many issues and situations that previously didn’t enter her life as Kent’s wife. Consider her reaction to Ben’s date with another boy, or her visit to a prison, or her encounter with a masked gunman. How do these moments affect Britt-Marie? What can they tell us about who she is and about the community she’s joined in Borg?
8. Despite its often humorous tone, this book touches on complicated real-world situations and issues like the economic downturn, social class, the state of the modern family and children’s rights. What impact has the economic downturn had on Borg? Did the novel cause you to think differently about the power of individuals to have a positive impact on their communities?
9. Consider the role of soccer in this story. What does soccer represent to the citizens of Borg, particularly to the children? In a world marked by instability and uncertainty, why is this sport so important to them?
10. Throughout the book, the team that an individual supports plays a role in the way that person is perceived by others and often tells a lot about him or her. Can you think of analogous scenarios in your own life where you have made certain assumptions about a person because of something he or she is passionate about?
11. Why do you think Britt-Marie decides to call the girl from the unemployment office to tell her that one of the children on the soccer team hit what he was aiming for? What does this moment signify for Britt-Marie?
12. “What is love if it’s not loving our lovers even when they don’t deserve it” (page 283). Do you agree with this statement, or does love without limits tend to lead to a relationship like Britt-Marie and Kent’s at the start of the novel?
13. Why do you think that Kent decides to fight for Britt-Marie’s soccer pitch? Do you believe he’s really a changed man?
14. Why do you think Britt-Marie ultimately makes the choice she does at the end of the story? What was the deciding moment, the impetus for her choice?
15. Do you think Britt-Marie will ever come back to Borg?
The Lions of Fifth Avenue by
Publication Date: 2020-08-04
"It's 1913, and on the surface, Laura Lyons couldn't ask for more out of life-her husband is the superintendent of the New York Public Library, allowing their family to live in an apartment within the grand building, and they are blessed with two children. But headstrong, passionate Laura wants more, and when she takes a leap of faith and applies to the Columbia Journalism School, her world is cracked wide open. As her studies take her all over the city, she finds herself drawn to Greenwich Village's new bohemia, where she discovers the Heterodoxy Club-a radical, all-female group in which women are encouraged to loudly share their opinions on suffrage, birth control, and women's rights. Soon, Laura finds herself questioning her traditional role as wife and mother. But when valuable books are stolen back at the library, threatening the home and institution she loves, she's forced to confront her shifting priorities head on . . . and may just lose everything in the process. Eighty years later, in 1993, Sadie Donovan struggles with the legacy of her grandmother, the famous essayist Laura Lyons, especially after she's wrangled her dream job as a curator at the New York Public Library. But the job quickly becomes a nightmare when rare manuscripts, notes, and books for the exhibit Sadie's running begin disappearing from the library's famous Berg Collection. Determined to save both the exhibit and her career, the typically risk-adverse Sadie teams up with a private security expert to uncover the culprit. However, things unexpectedly become personal when the investigation leads Sadie to some unwelcome truths about her own family heritage-truths that shed new light on the biggest tragedy in the library's history"--Provided by publisher.
1. Laura Lyons, despite her husband’s protests, wants to be a wife, a mother and a dedicated journalism student. Do you think women still face societal pressure today to only fill traditional roles? Do you think it’s possible to “have it all”?
2. The NYPL is very important to both Laura and Sadie. Is the library important to you? What role do you think your local library plays in your community?
3. How does Sadie’s character challenge stereotypes about librarians? Before reading this book, did you know the different roles they play in serving the public?
4. How did going to the Heterodoxy club change Laura? Do you see similar organizations at work today? What is the importance of having spaces where women can voice their opinions, stories and plans for the future?
5. What do you think of how Laura handles the situation after she finds out the identity of the book thief?
6. Losing the only copy of his manuscript is a devastating blow to Jack. Do you think the act of burning the manuscript was justified? Why or why not? How do you think technology has changed the value we put on the written word?
7. In her note, Laura writes that “it was all ultimately her fault, that her own actions initiated a cascade of tragedies.” Why do you think Laura believes she is responsible? Do you agree? Would things have been different if so much responsibility in the home didn’t fall only to Laura?
8. At the trial, Sadie argues for a harsher sentence for the book thief because what was stolen was more than a number of pages worth a certain amount, but “pieces of Western history and culture that have a dramatic impact...the loss of these items is a detriment to all of humanity.” Do you agree that the thief should receive a longer sentence? Given these items are priceless, do you think that locking them away is a viable solution? If not, why do you think it’s important for the public to have access to these items?
9. Why do you think Sadie was so closed off from people? In part, she used her grandmother’s life as a justification for her own. What do you think finding out about Laura’s real life did for Sadie?
10. Laura struggles with her conflicting commitments to school and the Heterodoxy club. Do you think she did the right thing? Would you have done the same? Why do you think it was important to the women of the Heterodoxy club to keep their discussions private? Why wouldn't they want their ideas disseminated?