The Library at Mount Char By Scott Hawkins
A missing God.
A library with the secrets to the universe.
A woman too busy to notice her heart slipping away.
Carolyn’s not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas sweater over the gold bicycle shorts. After all, she was a normal American herself once. That was a long time ago, of course. Before her parents died. Before she and the others were taken in by the man they called Father.
In the years since then, Carolyn hasn’t had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient customs. They’ve studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. And sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.
Now, Father is missing—perhaps even dead—and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded. And with it, control over all of creation. As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own. But Carolyn has accounted for this. And Carolyn has a plan. The only trouble is that in the war to make a new God, she’s forgotten to protect the things that make her human.
Populated by an unforgettable cast of characters and propelled by a plot that will shock you again and again, The Library at Mount Char is at once horrifying and hilarious, mind-blowingly alien and heartbreakingly human, sweepingly visionary and nail-bitingly thrilling—and signals the arrival of a major new voice in fantasy.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
This bestselling book from the author of Wild collects the best of The Rumpus’s Dear Sugar advice columns plus never-before-published pieces. Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.
Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.
Below are some discussion questions prepared by Pam B. Cole a Professor of English Education & Literacy at Kennesaw State University. Use these as a guide to help further your understanding of this nation-wide sensation.
1. A complex, chaotic structure makes the novel difficult to follow. How might this structure parallel, represent, and/or elevate themes in the story? How does Heller piece together the chronology of events?
2. Heller’s dialogue style is reminiscent of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” comic routine of the 1940s. How does Heller use this back-and-forth disorderly logic to develop character?
3. Chapters tend to be named for individuals in the story; however, titles are deceptive because they tend to be about other characters. Why might Heller have named chapters after one character but have written them about another?
4. Yossarian shares a tent with a “dead man.” What role does this mysterious character play?
5. Chief White Halfoat is illiterate, yet he is assigned to military intelligence. Identify and discuss other examples of Heller’s cynicism toward the government and/or other institutions.
6. Choose a poignant passage/scene. How does Heller make this passage/scene work (e.g., how does he evoke emotion in the reader)?
7. Of the multiple characters in the story, which are you drawn to the most? Why? Are there any completely moral characters in the story? Explain.
8. Major Major is described as “the most mediocre of men.” What do the events in his past and present life tell us about humanity and destiny?
9. Both Captain Wren and Captain Piltchard are described as “mild” and “soft-spoken” officers, and they love the war. Why might their personalities be fitting for someone who loves the war?
10. Yossarian returns to the hospital several times. What role do the hospital settings play in the story? In what way might the hospital settings foil the bombing/war scenes? In what way might they be reflective times for Yossarian? For other characters?
11. Compare and contrast Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn. Are they both hypocrites? Why or why not?
12. Circumstances surrounding Snowden’s death are revealed slowly. What does his death mean to Yossarian? To others?
13. Discuss the significance of déjà vu in the story and how it relates to religious faith.
14. While much of the novel is military satire, the story does delve into the private sector. How might Mrs. Daneeka be a satirical character?
15. One of the ironies of the story occurs at the end in which Yossarian has an opportunity to go home a hero. In essence, he has the system in a Catch-22. Explain.
16. Discuss whether the ending of Catch-22 is uplifting or downbeat. Is it a victory or a defeat?
17. Most of the characters in Catch-22 are over-the-top in the sense that, in many ways, they are caricatures of themselves. What must Heller have known about humanity to make them all so recognizable?
18. What do you believe is Heller’s view of a capitalistic society?
19. Is Catch-22 a comic novel or a story of morality? Explain.
20. What does Catch-22 say about war?
21. Discuss the literary significance of Catch-22 and its relevance in the twenty-first century.
22. How does Catch-22 compare to other war stories you have read? How does it compare to other satires?
23. How might Catch-22 be described as an allegory?
24. Discuss how the novel can be described as a struggle between the individual and an institution.
25. Discuss the meaning of sanity as it applies to the story.
Catch-22 By Joseph Heller
A Nation-Wide Sensation
More than fifty years after its original publication, Catch-22 remains a cornerstone of American literature and one of the funniest—and most celebrated—books of all time. In recent years it has been named to “best novels” lists by Time, Newsweek, the Modern Library, and the London Observer.
Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.
Below are some discussion questions to think about while reading or after, if you have already finished:
1. What most impressed you about the author and the children with whom he came into contact? Did any aspect of the story upset you? Did Conor’s story inspire you?
2. In your opinion, what was it about these children that touched Conor so deeply? Were you moved by their plight? What about the increasing number of children growing up in poverty in America? Do you see these children in the same way, or do you see their situations differently?
3. How might American children help their counterparts in places like Nepal? Thinking about the Little Princes, do you think we as Americans spoil our children and ourselves — do we buy more than what can truly be appreciated?
4. When Conor returned to Nepal he met the mother of one of the Little Princes. How did this affect him personally? And how did it influence the course of events that followed?
5. How did volunteering at Little Princes prepare Conor for having a family of his own? What did these children teach him about himself and the world?
6. At the beginning of Little Princes, Conor did not see himself as a global humanitarian, yet his visit to Nepal changed everything. What is it about him — and others like him introduced in Little Princes — that sets him apart from those who don’t volunteer or get involved?
7. How did Golkka, the man who trafficked many of these children, get away with his nefarious practices for so long? Human trafficking has become a worldwide problem, affecting millions. Why has it flourished and what steps might help stop it? How might you play a role? Would you consider doing so? Why or why not?
8. Do you empathize with the parents of the Little Princes children and others? Do you understand why they gave their children up? What might you do given similar circumstances?
9. What lessons did you take away from reading Little Princes?
Conor Grennan’s story about saving the lost children of Nepal is inspiring to say the least. If you are looking to read more books that make you want to get up and help humanity then check out these other inspiring true stories.
1. Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time
The astonishing, uplifting story of a real-life Indiana Jones and his humanitarian campaign to use education to combat terrorism in the Taliban’s backyard. Anyone who despairs of the individual’s power to change lives has to read the story of Greg Mortenson, a homeless mountaineer who, following a 1993 climb of Pakistan’s treacherous K2, was inspired by a chance encounter with impoverished mountain villagers and promised to build them a school. Over the next decade he built fifty-five schools—especially for girls—that offer a balanced education in one of the most isolated and dangerous regions on earth. As it chronicles Mortenson’s quest, which has brought him into conflict with both enraged Islamists and uncomprehending Americans, Three Cups of Tea combines adventure with a celebration of the humanitarian spirit.
2. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank’s diary needs no introduction. This beautifully written memoir of a young girl caught in the middle of one of the most horrific periods of human history, is a testament to the indestructible human will to persevere and survive in the face of the most adverse of circumstances.
3. Tuesdays with Morrie
Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago. Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded, and the world seemed colder. Wouldn’t you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you, receive wisdom for your busy life today the way you once did when you were younger? Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man’s life. Knowing he was dying, Morrie visited with Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final “class”: lessons in how to live. Tuesdays with Morrie is a magical chronicle of their time together, through which Mitch shares Morrie’s lasting gift with the world.
4. Free Fall: A Memoir of a Family Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One and Reclaiming Life on Their Own Terms
“Understanding suffering always helps the energy of compassion to be born.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh In an instant my husband stripped away my identity as wife, stay-at-home mom, and best friend. With his suicide, our world changed forever. He’d been the center of our universe, but then he was gone. Grief is a dark journey, one often tainted with judgment and false perceptions. Add the word ‘suicide’ to the mix and more complications arise. This memoir, Free Fall, is intended for those who may be facing their own tragedy and feeling alone, hopeless, confused, scared, and misunderstood. Free Fall is the journey of piecing our lives back together—overcoming children’s anxiety as we traversed the brutal grief and trauma process, learning to say the words ‘widow’ and ‘single mom’ without cringing, surviving the fall out with friends and family who simply couldn’t understand our healing process, triumphing over the stigma of ‘suicide’, forgiving my husband, and finding peace after chaos. Free Fall is for widows, widowers, parents, survivors of suicide, family members or friends of one who mourns. This story is for anyone who needs encouragement that there is another side to grief. There is. We’re there now. We’re looking back and holding our hands out to you saying, “hang in there, you’re not alone, and you’ll get here, too.”
5. The Hiding Place
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the twentieth century. In World War II she and her family risked their lives to help Jews and underground workers escape from the Nazis, and for their work they were tested in the infamous Nazi death camps. Only Corrie among her family survived to tell the story of how faith ultimately triumphs over evil. Here is the riveting account of how Corrie and her family were able to save many of God’s chosen people. For 35 years millions have seen that there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. Now The Hiding Place, repackaged for a new generation of readers, continues to declare that God’s love will overcome, heal, and restore.
6. Banker to the Poor: Micro-lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
Muhammad Yunus is that rare thing: a bona fide visionary. His dream is the total eradication of poverty from the world. In 1983, against the advice of banking and government officials, Yunus established Grameen, a bank devoted to providing the poorest of Bangladesh with minuscule loans. Grameen Bank, based on the belief that credit is a basic human right, not the privilege of a fortunate few, now provides over 2.5 billion dollars of micro-loans to more than two million families in rural Bangladesh. Ninety-four percent of Yunus’s clients are women, and repayment rates are near 100 percent. Around the world, micro-lending programs inspired by Grameen are blossoming, with more than three hundred programs established in the United States alone. Banker to the Poor is Muhammad Yunus’s memoir of how he decided to change his life in order to help the world’s poor. In it he traces the intellectual and spiritual journey that led him to fundamentally rethink the economic relationship between rich and poor, and the challenges he and his colleagues faced in founding Grameen. He also provides wise, hopeful guidance for anyone who would like to join him in “putting homelessness and destitution in a museum so that one day our children will visit it and ask how we could have allowed such a terrible thing to go on for so long.” The definitive history of micro-credit direct from the man that conceived of it, Banker to the Poor is necessary and inspirational reading for anyone interested in economics, public policy, philanthropy, social history, and business.
7. An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in Western India in 1869. He was educated in London and later travelled to South Africa, where he experienced racism and took up the rights of Indians, instituting his first campaign of passive resistance. In 1915 he returned to British-controlled India, bringing to a country in the throes of independence his commitment to non-violent change, and his belief always in the power of truth. Under Gandhi’s lead, millions of protesters would engage in mass campaigns of civil disobedience, seeking change through ahimsa or non-violence. For Gandhi, the long path towards Indian independence would lead to imprisonment and hardship, yet he never once forgot the principles of truth and non-violence so dear to him. Written in the 1920s, Gandhi’s autobiography tells of his struggles and his inspirations; a powerful and enduring statement of an extraordinary life.
8. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country. Since his triumphant release in 1990 from more than a quarter-century of imprisonment, Mandela has been at the center of the most compelling and inspiring political drama in the world. As president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa’s antiapartheid movement, he was instrumental in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule. He is revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality. LONG WALK TO FREEDOM is his moving and exhilarating autobiography, destined to take its place among the finest memoirs of history’s greatest figures. Here for the first time, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela tells the extraordinary story of his life–an epic of struggle, setback, renewed hope, and ultimate triumph.
9. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived. In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.
10. Man’s Search for Meaning: The Classic Tribute to Hope from the Holocaust
Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”)-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.
Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal By Conor Grennan
New York Times Bestseller
Little Princes is the epic story of Conor Grennan’s battle to save the lost children of Nepal and how he found himself in the process. Part Three Cups of Tea, part Into Thin Air, Grennan’s remarkable memoir is at once gripping and inspirational, and it carries us deep into an exotic world that most readers know little about.