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On Wednesday February 28, 2018 we will meet to discuss O Pioneers! by Willa Cather.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 103/105 in the Lee Center.  This conference room is on your right as you walk in the southern entrance of the building.  Please use Parking Lot D.

From amazon.com:

“Set on the Nebraska prairie where Willa Cather (1873–1947) grew up, this powerful early novel tells the story of the young Alexandra Bergson, whose dying father leaves her in charge of the family and of the lands they have struggled to farm. In Alexandra’s long flight to survive and succeed, O Pioneers! relates an important chapter in the history of the American frontier.
Evoking the harsh grandeur of the prairie, this landmark of American fiction unfurls a saga of love, greed, murder, failed dreams, and hard-won triumph. In the fateful interaction of her characters, Willa Cather compares with keen insight the experiences of Swedish, French, and Bohemian immigrants in the United States. And in her absorbing narrative, she displays the virtuoso storytelling skills that have made her one of the most admired masters of the American novel.”





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On Wednesday, January 31, 2018 we will meet to discuss The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in the Performing Arts Center Lobby (PAC Lobby).   Parking Lot A is closest to Exit Door 10 which leads to the PAC Lobby.

From Penguin Random House ~~

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize when it was first published in 1918, The Magnificent Ambersons chronicles the changing fortunes of three generations of an American dynasty. The protagonist of Booth Tarkington’s great historical drama is George Amberson Minafer, the spoiled and arrogant grandson of the founder of the family’s magnificence. Eclipsed by a new breed of developers, financiers, and manufacturers, this pampered scion begins his gradual descent from the midwestern aristocracy to the working class.

Today The Magnificent Ambersons is best known through the 1942 Orson Welles movie, but as the critic Stanley Kauffmann noted, “It is high time that [the novel] appear again, to stand outside the force of Welles’s genius, confident in its own right.”

“The Magnificent Ambersons is perhaps Tarkington’s best novel,” judged Van Wyck Brooks. “[It is] a typical story of an American family and town–the great family that locally ruled the roost and vanished virtually in a day as the town spread and darkened into a city. This novel no doubt was a permanent page in the social history of the United States, so admirably conceived and written was the tale of the Ambersons, their house, their fate and the growth of the community in which they were submerged in the end.”


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Oakton’s Great Books book club discussion group announces its December event.  On Wednesday, December 13, 2017, we will meet for a “Reader Round-up” at 11:30 p.m. in room 2442.

We will share our thoughts on the following:

  •  The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie  – From agathachristie.com:  “When a priceless ruby, belonging to a Far Eastern prince, is stolen from him whilst he is on a visit to England, Poirot is asked to make a quiet investigation. The ruby was destined for the prince’s bride-to-be and a scandal must be avoided.  Poirot does Christmas the English way, pursuing a case at the same time. This story was originally much shorter and appeared under the same title in The Sketch magazine, December 1923. This lengthened version wasn’t to appear in print until 1960, in the collection of the same name. It appeared in 1961 in the US collection Double Sin and Other Stories, under the title The Theft of the Royal Ruby.”
    From the forward by Agatha Christie:  “The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding is an indulgence of my own, since it recalls to me, very pleasurably, the Christmases of my youth. After my father’s death, my mother and I always spent Christmas with my brother-in-law’s family in the north of England—and what superb Christmases they were for a child to remember! Abney Hall had everything! The garden boasted a waterfall, a stream, and a tunnel under the drive! The Christmas fare was of gargantuan proportions. I was a skinny child, appearing delicate, but actually of robust health and perpetually hungry! The boys of the family and I used to vie with each other as to who could eat most on Christmas Day. Oyster Soup and Turbot went down without undue zest, but then came Roast Turkey, Boiled Turkey and an enormous Sirloin of Beef. The boys and I had two helpings of all three! We then had Plum Pudding, Mince-pies, Trifle and every kind of dessert. During the afternoon we ate chocolates solidly. We neither felt, nor were, sick! How lovely to be eleven years old and greedy!
  •  Books we’ve read this year and would recommend to others.  Books on your wish list, and books on our ‘To Be Read’ piles.

Here is where you can read a full text pdf version of The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, pages 6 – 67.


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On Wednesday, November 29, 2017 we will meet to discuss The Tempest by William Shakespeare. We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 2442.

From Lyn Ward Page:

This is our fourth Shakespeare play, and we’ve now covered all of the types, or genres, in which the plays are written. We’ve read a history, a comedy and a tragedy, and now are reading a romance–the late genre which is based on comedy, but includes the element of reconciliation. You’ll see in the summary that forgiveness is an important part of the conclusion of this play.

So your attachments are: a summary of the plot and list of characters; two power points from the Great Books Shakespeare course–a review slide on Shakespearean language–this play is written in poetry, prose and the broken lines of the monster, Caliban, and a slide on historical background for the play and its place in Shakespeare’s overall career; and, finally, some suggested questions for our discussion.

Happy reading–this is a magical play, with a magician as the hero, a love story and even some supernatural characters. At this holiday time of year, what more could we ask?!

p.s.–The pre-wedding masque, with music and dancing for Miranda and Ferdinand, is heavy going–it’s sometimes even cut in production. This was another popular element when the play was written–Shakespeare as musical comedy?!

The full text of The Tempest is available on the Folger Shakespeare Library website.


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On Wednesday, October 25, 2017 we will meet to discuss selected stories from The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories compiled by Michael Cox and R. A. Gilbert.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 2442.

From the Introduction –

Whatever we do with the dead they will not go away.  Whether we entomb and isolate them or scatter their ashes, they remain as ghosts in our memories and faced with their continuing presence we have no option but to learn to live with them.  Our most effective way of accommodating them is, perhaps, to encapsulate them in stories, either as the vengeful or grateful dead of folklore, as the dull prosaic phantoms of physical research, or as the less predictable revenants* of fiction.


Circumstantial detail, believable living characters, economy of style, and the power of suggestion all create the necessary atmosphere for a successful ghost story. Just as essential is a due regard for dramatic strategy.  The story must be exactly paced and the narrative energy firmly under the writer’s control.  Although we know from the outset that the ghost’s appearance is inevitable, that appearance should be climatic rather than unexpected.  The most effective ghosts are those who intrude gradually but insistently and who, when they come, prove to be far from pleasant.

* A revenant is a visible ghost or animated corpse that is believed to have revived from death to haunt the living. The word revenant is derived from the Latin word reveniens, “returning”

We will read the following stories from the book:

The Tapestried Chamber (1829) Sir Walter Scott – pages 1 -12
The Judge’s House (1891) Bram Stoker – pages 109-124
The Friends of the Friends (1896) Henry James – pages 150-171
The Red Room (1896) H. G. Wells – pages 172-179
Mr Jones (1930) Edith Wharton -pages 354 -376


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On Wednesday, September 27, 2017 we will meet to discuss Toby’s Room by Pat Barker. We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 2442.

From bookbrowse.com:

“From Booker Prize winner Pat Barker, a masterful novel that portrays the staggering human cost of the Great War. Admirers of her Regeneration Trilogy as well as fans of Downton Abbey and War Horse will be enthralled.

With Toby’s Room, a sequel to her widely praised previous novel Life Class, the incomparable Pat Barker confirms her place in the pantheon of Britain’s finest novelists. This indelible portrait of a family torn apart by war focuses on Toby Brooke, a medical student, and his younger sister Elinor. Enmeshed in a web of complicated family relationships, Elinor and Toby are close: some might say too close. But when World War I begins, Toby is posted to the front as a medical officer while Elinor stays in London to continue her fine art studies at the Slade, under the tutelage of Professor Henry Tonks. There, in a startling development based in actual fact, Elinor finds that her drafting skills are deployed to aid in the literal reconstruction of those maimed in combat.

One day in 1917, Elinor has a sudden premonition that Toby will not return from France. Three weeks later the family receives a telegram informing them that Toby is “Missing, Believed Killed” in Ypres. However, there is no body, and Elinor refuses to accept the official explanation. Then she finds a letter hidden in the lining of Toby’s uniform; Toby knew he wasn’t coming back, and he implies that fellow soldier Kit Neville will know why.

Toby’s Room is an eloquent literary narrative of hardship and resilience, love and betrayal, and anguish and redemption. In unflinching yet elegant prose, Pat Barker captures the enormity of the war’s impact – not only on soldiers at the front but on the loved ones they leave behind.”





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On Wednesday, August 30, 2017 we will meet to discuss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in a picnic setting in the courtyard.  If there is no room for us or the weather is inclement, we have reserved room 1849.

From Amazon.com Review by Emilie Coulter ~~~

Francie Nolan, avid reader, penny-candy connoisseur, and adroit observer of human nature, has much to ponder in colorful, turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. She grows up with a sweet, tragic father, a severely realistic mother, and an aunt who gives her love too freely–to men, and to a brother who will always be the favored child. Francie learns early the meaning of hunger and the value of a penny. She is her father’s child–romantic and hungry for beauty. But she is her mother’s child, too–deeply practical and in constant need of truth. Like the Tree of Heaven that grows out of cement or through cellar gratings, resourceful Francie struggles against all odds to survive and thrive. Betty Smith’s poignant, honest novel created a big stir when it was first published over 50 years ago. Her frank writing about life’s squalor was alarming to some of the more genteel society, but the book’s humor and pathos ensured its place in the realm of classics–and in the hearts of readers, young and old.

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