2022 Novelist Reading Challenge: “Maus” by Art Spiegelman

For the second year in a row, NoveList has created a year long reading challenge to help people stretch their reading comfort zones. The challenge gives 24 prompts for readers: 12 for beginners and 12 for aficionados. My goal is to complete all 24 prompts this year. I’ll be making my way through the list and writing reviews about the books I really like. You can find the full reading challenge here.

First up is prompt #17: Read a graphic novel with black and white illustrations. I don’t typically read graphic novels so I was planning on putting this prompt off until later in the year. Then I saw some new articles about controversy over the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel, Maus by Art Spiegelman. It was removed from the 8th grade curriculum by a Tennessee school board for its “unnecessary use of profanity and nudity and its depiction of violence and suicide.” There is nothing I love more than challenged books, so I knew I needed to read it.

Maus follows the strained relationship between author Art Spiegelman and his aging father, Vladek, a Holocaust survivor. The novel begins in 1978 with a visit between Art and Vladek. It moves between two timelines, intertwining their visits in present day with Vladek’s stories of his life during the Holocaust. We follow Vladek all the way through the war: from his time as a POW, his time in a ghetto, his multiple hiding spots in between, and finally to his time in Auschwitz and Dachau. He tells of the people and family members he met and lost along the way, and the horrors he faced during those six years. The novel ends after Vladek tells the story of his return to his hometown at the end of the war and his reunion with his wife Anya, Art’s mother. The last panel is an image of Anya’s and Vladek’s tombstone. Anya died by suicide in 1968 and Vladek of congestive heart failure in 1982 before the book was completed.

This book was intense, and it took me a while to get through it. I picked it up and read the first part in one sitting. I usually read books in about 2-4 days, but I had to let this one sit for about a week before I could continue. Maus does not gloss over gruesome details of the Holocaust. Vladek tells stories about murder, violence, torture, starvation, medical experimentation, sickness, and suicide. Maus is one of the best books I’ve read in my adult life. It was difficult, but it was a necessary reminder of a terrible part of the world’s history. Spiegelman said it best, “This is disturbing imagery, but you know what? It’s disturbing history.” I highly recommend this book, even if you’ve read other Holocaust stories in the past. The graphic novel format makes the amazing storytelling that much more impactful.

Check Out All the Books I’ve Read for This Challenge

         

New on Novelist!

The eternal question: what to read next! We love to make book recommendations, but if the library is closed, there’s a great resource that you can access through our library website. We’ve recently moved our Reading Online Resources closer to the top of the list at: https://eapld.org/online-resources/. Just click on Novelist or Novelist K-8 (for children’s books). Type in a title or an author to find reading suggestions for books that are similar in subject, tone, or pacing.

The Aurora Public Library District has recently upgraded to a more robust version of Novelist that provides access to all of the Novelist features directly through our online catalog. Just do a catalog search for a book you enjoyed. Select the book title from the search results , and then look for the “Related” link on the left side of the page. Here’s what my screen looked like when I searched the online catalog for the book An American Marriage.

As you can see, Novelist suggested similar titles and similar authors. Scrolling down further will show a tab with Story Elements. By clicking on the elements that you enjoy, you may find additional titles. Here I selected Character-driven, Domestic Fiction, and Southern Fiction.

Scrolling down more will show both book reviews and awards won by the book. Another way you can use Novelist is to determine the order of books in a series. You can do this directly from Novelist, but if the book you are reading is part of a series, you can also grab this information from the Novelist input to the catalog. For example, if I have started the Louise Penny books, but don’t know which book comes after A Great Reckoning, I can search for that title, click on the Related tab, and all the books in the series will be shown in order. You can see that in the image below.

Play around with Novelist through the direct link and also within the online catalog. I bet you’ll find some great new books to enjoy! As always, if you need help with this resource, just ask one of the Library staff.

Reading Slumps

I totally just made those definitions up. But I think every reader has been stuck in a reading slump before! I know I’ve had my fair share. What can we do to get out of one?

First, you can go to the Online Resources tab on our website and scroll down until you see Novelist. From there you can search your favorite book, author, or series and come up with lists of title-, author-, and series-read-a-likes you might enjoy. You can even search by genre and age. You can also check out Select Reads under the same tab on the website that is similar.

If you don’t have an account with Goodreads, I definitely recommend that you make one! It’s kind of like Facebook for book lovers. You can read synopses of books, add them to various lists, and get recommendations based on the ratings you give books you’ve read. There are also blogs, author interviews, and trivia you can browse through to find your next great read.

Try rereading your most favorite books; you can’t go wrong there because you already know you’ll love it! Maybe it will spark your interest in something new!

Try short story collections, poetry, novellas, or graphic novels. These are quick reads that you can breeze through just to keep you reading. Plus, if you’re on Goodreads and participate in the yearly reading challenge, these reads are a great way to boost your numbers!

Take a list of books you’ve been meaning to read, write down each title on a slip of paper, and put those papers in a hat or a jar. Draw one at random and force yourself to read it. Even if you wind up not liking the book and quitting halfway through, you’ll be ready to either draw another title or pick another title for yourself.

Browse most popular books, get recommendations from your friends, or start reading reviews online. The Library also has magazines that you can check out dedicated to popular book and new release reviews. You could also check out what the Library book clubs are reading for the month; if you sign up and come to a discussion, you’ll be able to be around book-minded people like yourself who will be able to point you in the right direction.

Still having trouble? Ask us for help! We LOVE recommending books to patrons! It’s our job to know all kinds of books, and we handle tons of books on a daily basis. Chances are we’ll be able to find something for you!

Good luck and Happy Reading!

National Read a Book Day!

September 6 is National Read a Book Day! What better place to get a book to read than the Aurora Public Library District? For readers of all ages and walks of life, we’ve got just the right book for you!

You can stop by one of our branches and leisurely browse our selection, reading the backs and inserts of the books for summaries to decide what book you’re going to check out. Our staff is always willing to recommend books to you (and obsess over books and characters with you…). This is the way libraries have been operating for decades, and it still works today! If you have a library card, you can check out the books for two weeks and renew them two times after that if you need to, as well.

You could also download Overdrive to any of your smart devices, like your phone or tablet. Once you download the app, you’ll be able to access the thousands of books we have in our digital collection, the Indiana Digital Download Center. To log in, type in your library card and pin number and you’ll be all set! You can also set the limits to be able to check items out for 7, 14, or 21 days. Once your due date is here, the item will automatically check itself back in so you don’t have to worry about late fees!

If you’re having trouble finding your next great read, you can also visit some of the websites we have listed under the Online Resources tab on our website. You can visit Novelist to find author-, title-, and series-read-a-likes just by typing your favorite author, title, or series. For younger readers, there is also Novelist K-8. Select Reads is a website where you can join online book clubs, sign up for newsletters about your favorite genre and author, and even sing up for contests to win free books. Another great website to find your next favorite book is Goodreads. You can rate and review books, and chat with and add friends who love books as much as you do. There are blogs, summaries, and giveaways you can enter in, plus you can ask your favorite authors questions that they just might answer back! It’s kind of like Facebook for book lovers.

Utilize one or all of these resources to find your next great read and join in on National Read a Book Day! Let us know what you’ll be reading by commenting on this blog, stopping in, or writing on our Facebook wall. We would love to hear from you!

Happy Reading!

Website Resources: Novelist (What to Read After…)

If you’re like me and hate that slump after finishing a series and not knowing what to read next, then this blog is for you. Under the Online Resources tab on the Aurora Public Library District website, you’ll find a link to the website Novelist. Novelist offers short biographies of authors as well as synopses of over 120,000 fiction titles. Novelist also offers series and author read-a-likes, so you can find your next great read.

For example, I just finished rereading the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling in anticipation for the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them movie, which will be released on November 18. So I went on Novelist to try to find series read-a-likes:

Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

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In a fantasy world, a fifteen-year-old boy named Eragon finds a rare dragon’s egg. He raises the dragon on his own and becomes one of the legendary and outlawed Dragon Riders. Now Eragon is set with the task of restoring the Dragon Riders back to their former glory and defeating the tyrannical King Galbatorix over a series of four books.

Pendragon by D.J. MacHale

pendragon-series

Fourteen-year-old Bobby Pendragon is destined to save the magical world of Denduron. He is whisked away from everything he has ever known to a new land where he must defeat a magical ruler and play a role in the revolution to overthrow the evil Saint Dane. This series takes place over ten books where Bobby ages and matures, just like Harry does throughout his series.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

artemis-fowl-series

Artemis Fowl is a twelve-year-old genius who is trying to restore his family’s fortune to its former glory. Magic and futuristic technology collide in a world of fairies over the course of eight books, where Artemis grows into a criminal mastermind with an arch-nemesis.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan

percy-jackson-series

Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is shocked to learn that he is a demigod after fighting off monsters and trouble for his entire life. He begins training at Camp Half-Blood and learns that his father is Poseidon, the ancient Greek God of the Sea. It is up to Percy to start a quest to dispel a war between the Greek gods. This series is told over the course of five books where tensions mount and the stakes are raised, and Percy has to save the world over and over again.

In my opinion, Rick Riordan tells stories in a similar way to J.K. Rowling, which is why I love his other series (Heroes of Olympus, Kane Chronicles, Trials of Apollo, and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard) so much. If you’re looking for a series similar to Harry Potter, I would start with Percy Jackson & the Olympians and then the Heroes of Olympus series.

If there’s a series you love so much that you were depressed when it was over and ate a whole box of cookies (don’t judge), then Novelist is a great tool for you to use. Also, be sure to look into SelectReads as well. SelectReads sends monthly newsletters to your email address based on your book preferences to help you find your next favorite author and series.

Happy Reading!