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Madison Public Library

Literary Giants: Invisible Man

Date: 
Monday, February 28, 2005 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
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Author: 
Ralph Ellison
Title: 
Invisible Man

Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. Read more about Literary Giants: Invisible Man

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Literary Giants: The Devil in the White City

Date: 
Monday, March 28, 2005 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
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Author: 
Erik Larson
Title: 
The Devil in the White City

Not long after Jack the Ripper haunted theill-lit streets of 1888 London, H.H. Holmes (born Herman Webster Mudgett) dispatched somewhere between 27 and 200 people, mostly single young women, in the churning new metropolis of Chicago; many of the murders occurred during (and exploited) the city's finest moment, the World's Fair of 1893. Larson's breathtaking new history is a novelistic yet wholly factual account of the fair and the mass murderer who lurked within it. Bestselling author Larson (Isaac's Storm) strikes a fine balance between the planning and execution of the vast fair and Holmes's relentless, ghastly activities. This book is everything popular history should be, meticulously recreating a rich, pre-automobile America on the cusp of modernity, in which the sale of "articulated" corpses was a semi-respectable trade and serial killers could go well-nigh unnoticed. Read more about Literary Giants: The Devil in the White City

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Literary Giants: Excellent Women

Date: 
Wednesday, April 27, 2005 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Barbara Pym
Title: 
Excellent Women

An unqualifiedly great novel from the writer most likely to be compared to Jane Austen, this is a very funny, perfectly written book that can rival any other in its ability to capture the essence of its characters on the page. Mildred Lathbury, the narrator of Pym's excellent book is a never-married woman in her 30s--which in 1950s England makes her a nearly-confirmed spinster. Hers is a pretty unexciting life, centered around her small church, and part-time job. But Mildred is far more perceptive and witty than even she seems to think, and when Helena and Rockingham Napier move into the flat below her, there seems to be a chance for her life to take a new direction. This early comic novel, which was hailed by Lord David Cecil as one of "the finest examples of high comedy to have appeared in England during the past seventy-five years," helped launch the rediscovery of the author's entire work. This is Barbara Pym's world at its funniest. (Amazon) Read more about Literary Giants: Excellent Women

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Literary Giants: My Brilliant Career

Date: 
Monday, May 23, 2005 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Miles Franklin
Title: 
My Brilliant Career

In this ironically titled and riotous first novel by Miles Franklin, originally published in 1901, Sybylla tells the story of growing up passionate and rebellious in rural NSW. where the most that girls could hope for was to marry or to teach. Sybylla will do neither, but that doesn't stop her from falling in love, and it doesn't make the choices any easier. Read more about Literary Giants: My Brilliant Career

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Literary Giants: My Sister's Keeper

Date: 
Monday, July 25, 2005 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Jodi Picoult
Title: 
My Sister's Keeper

Imagine that you were conceived to be the donor of bone marrow and platelets for your older sister, who has a rare form of cancer. Imagine what it would be like to grow up in a family where everyone is constantly aware of one child's deadly illness, so that all decisions must be filtered through what will work for her treatment or her most recent medical emergency. How can a 12-year-old decide against donating a kidney to her older sister? Read more about Literary Giants: My Sister's Keeper

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Literary Giants: Shadow Divers

Date: 
Monday, August 29, 2005 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Robert Kurson
Title: 
Shadow Divers

This superlative journalistic narrative tells of John Chatterton and Rich Kohler, two deep-sea wreck divers who in 1991 dove to a mysterious wreck lying at the perilous depth of 230 feet, off the coast of New Jersey. Along the way, Chatterton's diving cost him a marriage, and Kohler's love for his German heritage helped turn him into a serious U-boat scholar. The two lost three of their diving companions on the wreck and their mentor, Bill Nagle, to alcoholism. Read more about Literary Giants: Shadow Divers

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Literary Giants: One True Thing

Date: 
Monday, September 26, 2005 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm
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Author: 
Anna Quindlen
Title: 
One True Thing

This novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist follows the psychological travails of Ellen Gulden, who against all personal inclinations returns home to care for her dying mother, Kate, and eventually finds herself accused of mercy-killing. Ellen, an intelligent though not particularly warm person, has spent her life earning her professor father's approval. After achieving high school valedictorian and Harvard honors, she aspires to advance her New York career. At her father's insistence, however, she leaves her job and takes on the role of nurse and homemaker. Through long hours as companion to Kate, she discovers the real value of her mother's life. Read more about Literary Giants: One True Thing

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Literary Giants: Andersonville

Date: 
Monday, October 31, 2005 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
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Author: 
Mackinlay Kantor
Title: 
Andersonville

Kantor's classic title is credited as the best Civil War novel ever written. This magnificent work is about a prison in Georgia - a facility that actually existed - where Confederate soldiers consigned Union prisoners, and what grimness took place there is established in graphic detail by the author's circling through and among a wide range of characters, from the jailer to those who are jailed, from inside the prison and from without. 1956 Pulitzer Prize/Literature Read more about Literary Giants: Andersonville

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Literary Giants: Fast Food Nation

Date: 
Monday, November 28, 2005 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
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Author: 
Eric Schlosser
Title: 
Fast Food Nation

Schlosser's incisive history of the development of American fast food indicts the industry for some shocking crimes against humanity, including systematically destroying the American diet and landscape, and undermining our values and our economy. The first part of the book details the postwar ascendance of fast food from Southern California, assessing the impact on people in the West in general. The second half looks at the product itself: where it is manufactured (in a handful of enormous factories), what goes into it (chemicals, feces) and who is responsible (monopolistic corporate executives). Given the estimate that the typical American eats three hamburgers and four orders of french fries each week, and one in eight will work for McDonald's in the course of their lives, few are exempt from the insidious impact of fast food. Throughout, Schlosser fires these and a dozen other hair-raising statistical bullets into the heart of the matter. Read more about Literary Giants: Fast Food Nation

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Literary Giants: The Time Traveler's Wife

Date: 
Monday, January 30, 2006 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
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Author: 
Audrey Niffenegger
Title: 
The Time Traveler's Wife

This clever and inventive tale works on three levels: as an intriguing science fiction concept, a realistic character study and a touching love story. Henry De Tamble is a Chicago librarian with "Chrono Displacement" disorder; at random times, he suddenly disappears without warning and finds himself in the past or future, usually at a time or place of importance in his life. This leads to some wonderful paradoxes. From his point of view, he first met his wife, Clare, when he was 28 and she was 20. She ran up to him exclaiming that she'd known him all her life. He, however, had never seen her before. But when he reaches his 40s, already married to Clare, he suddenly finds himself time travelling to Clare's childhood and meeting her as a six-year-old. The book alternates between Henry and Clare's points of view, and so does the narration. (Publisher's Weekly) Read more about Literary Giants: The Time Traveler's Wife

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