header image
 

 

Published amid controversy and shaded by early, embargo-breaking reviews, Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman starts out on shaky ground, despite extraordinary pre-order numbers. Lee wrote it before To Kill a Mockingbird, but it takes place twenty years later and with many of the same characters.

Jean Louise Finch has come back to her hometown of Maycomb, AL, from New York City for her annual visit, but finds Maycomb changed. The buildings have changed, the people in them are different, and Jean Louise’s mind is flooded with memories. In those flashbacks, there are a couple of charming scenes of Scout, Jem, and Dill that feel very much like scenes that didn’t make it into Mockingbird. The flashbacks are the most enjoyable part, which makes it easy to understand why Lee’s editor originally asked her to shelve this manuscript and write about Scout’s youth.

As many reviews have already pointed out, the much-beloved Atticus Finch is portrayed as a racist. That’s definitely true. There are some truly cringe-worthy lines shared between Atticus and Jean Louise. Lee deftly shows what the horror of disillusionment feels like, that gut-wrenching shock of being disappointed by someone you admire. (In fact, Jean Louise is repeatedly told she needs to see the doctor because her distress is visible, even though the concerned parties don’t know what’s troubling her.) It’s uncomfortable to read, but Lee addresses an issue rarely covered in fiction: loving someone whose prejudices you abhor. Unfortunately, it’s not as successful as it could have been with a good editor and a couple of rewrites. Instead, the world was gifted with To Kill a Mockingbird and all that work went into it and not Watchman. It’s an interesting read, as a companion to Mockingbird, but should be read within the context of it being a rough draft.

The most poignant part of the book for me was Jean Louise’s feeling of homesickness. She no longer feels like she belongs in Maycomb, if she ever did feel like she belonged, and she doesn’t feel truly at home anywhere else. Jean Louise is a flawed, lovable character throughout both books and remains one of my favorite literary heroines.

 

Several of Matthew Pearl’s previous novels, such as The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow, have dealt with literary history. In his new book, The Last Bookaneer, Pearl explores the last days before copyright law, when intellectual property was readily pirated, especially in the case of British authors’ works being published in America without the authors’ consent. The term bookaneer refers to the people who stole manuscripts through whatever nefarious means might have been necessary.

The novel begins on a train in New York, with a young waiter and an old bookseller, who have struck up a friendship because of their mutual love of books. Mr. Fergins shares a tale with his young friend about an attempt to steal the last masterpiece of Robert Louis Stevenson, in which Fergins himself was involved. Stevenson, aging and unwell, really did seek solace in Samoa and became involved in the politics of the island. The story Mr. Fergins tells is full of the sort of danger, deception, and ruthless villains you’d expect from a Stevenson novel.

What really won me over as a I read though, were the many times Pearl’s narrators (the young waiter, Mr. Clover, is the other narrator) talked about books. Such as:

Strangers talking over piles of books do not remain strangers for long. (page 22)

When a bookshop in a city of culture such as London stops its operations, it is viewed by the wider community as a failure of mankind–a sign that books are no longer being read, or only the wrong sort of books, that literature’s finally dead, or in a temporary state of decay, that bookshops will one day disappear altogether and be replaced by mail order, that eventually books themselves would be finally and fully buried by that awful foe, so much cheaper and easier to carry: newspapers. (page 28)

The reader wants to rescue E.A. Poe; he wants to be a friend to Longfellow; wants Dickens to be his friend, Sir Walter Scott to be his wealthy uncle; but would be satisfied simply to lay eyes on R.L. Stevenson. (page 67)

The Last Bookaneer is a book lover’s book, a fun adventure story hiding in a literary work of historical fiction.

 

Dickson County High School Summer Reading

English I Pre-AP Students
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak

10th English II Honors
The Ascent Of Man by Jacob Bronowski

Honors English III
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
This I Believe, the NPR anthology

AP English III: Language and Composition
Nonfiction:
1. Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss
2. “Concerning Civil Government, Second Essay” by John Locke
3. On the Duty of Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
4. Letter from the Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Novel:
5. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines

English IV Honors
​Novels
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Drama
A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
King Lear OR Othello by William Shakespeare
Poetry
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (The General Prologue, The Wife of Bath’s Tale and Prologue, The Pardoner’s Tale and Prologue)
Epic
The Aeneid by Virgil

 

Creek Wood High School Summer Reading

9th Grade, Honors English I:
1. How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster (Introduction How’d He Do That?, chapters 1-6, 10, Interlude Does He Mean That?, chapters 11-13, 19-24)
2. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

10th Grade, Honors English II
Students may choose one (1) of the following texts to read:
1. In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
OR
2. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

11th Grade, Honors English III
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

12th Grade, Honors English IV
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

In the fourth book of the Dr. Samantha Owens series, the former medical examiner faces her most dangerous case yet. She wakes up to sirens in her neighborhood and, despite how much she wants to deny it, she is desperately curious about the case. In her new position as a consultant for the FBI, and with her good friend detective Lt. Darren Fletcher on the case, she soon finds out more than she intended. The crime scene is a faked murder-suicide and is the first in a string of related homicides. Sam and Fletch have to investigate at break-neck speed to try to catch up to the killer and it appears that the State Department is withholding valuable information. And then there’s Samantha’s boyfriend Xander, whose new private security business has unpleasantly gotten his name in the headlines.

J.T. Ellison is a store favorite at Reading Rock for a reason: her books are fantastic. I blew through What Lies Behind in a day. It’s one of those books that makes you ignore the dirty dishes in the sink or the TV shows filling up your DVR because once you start it, you won’t want to do anything else but read until you’ve reached the end.

Order your signed copy here!

This book is also available as a Kobo eBook.

We have confirmation that nine local authors will be coming to Reading Rock on Saturday for Independent Bookstore Day! They will be signing books from 3-4:30pm this Saturday, May 2. Here’s the list:

M. Sue Alexander – Author of the apocalyptic, Christian “Resurrection Dawn” series and Tomorrow’s Promise.

Terry Coats – President of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway Preservation Society and author of Next Stop on Grandpa’s Road.

Ann Rauscher Smith Hagler – Author of The Settling Place, a historical novel set in Erin, TN, based on the real-life shooting death of her great grandfather.

Hannah Heinz – Contributor to Balance for Busy Moms: Cook Your Way to Health.

Sarah Jacobs – Author of Divorce and a Strategy for Happiness, a memoir/self-help book about what it was like to find herself alone and starting over after 30 years as a Christian homemaker.

Kim Leady – Author of Once a Vagabond, Angels in the Window, and Once Last Ride and she’s been a customer of Reading Rock practically since the day we opened!

D. Alan Lewis – Award-winning author of The Blood in the Snowflake Garden and many other books and stories, most often in the fantasy, horror, and steampunk genres.

Tracy Lucas – Owner of Smash Cake Press and Inkwell Basics (a workshop business) and volunteer with the Nashville Writers Meetup Group. Tracy is the creator of several journals called Hook Books, which are visual writing-prompt journals with room to write.

Betsy Thorpe – Author of The Day the Whistles Cried, a historical account of the worst train wreck in US history, which occurred in Nashville.

Store favorite and NYT-bestselling author J.T. Ellison will be coming back to Reading Rock on May 28th at 6:30pm. We’ll start out the evening with a short update on her books and writing (she’s written two books with Catherine Coulter since her last visit to Reading Rock), and then she’ll be signing copies of What Lies Behind, her newest book and the fourth in the Dr. Samantha Owens series.

As part of Independent Bookstore Day on May 2, we asked J.T. for a list of books that changed her life. Come to the store that day and see our display of books that helped make J.T. the fabulous writer she is today. Here’s her list (the comments are hers):

 

 

Mind Prey
Every Dead Thing
Running Blind

 

Mind Prey by John Sandford, which inspired the Taylor Jackson series
Every Dead Thing by John Connolly inspired my ever-evolving writing style
Running Blind by Lee Child, for the most evocative autopsy scene ever

 

Outlander
The Deathly Hallows
Here Be Dragons

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, one of the best books ever written (I’ve read it 9 times)
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, one of the finest examples of how to end a series
Here Be Dragons by Sharon Penman, which spurred a lifelong love of Arthurian legends

Forever
Anthem
Republic

Forever by Judy Blume – um… first sex?
Anthem by Ayn Rand
Book VII of Plato’s Republic – The Allegory of the Cave – got me into graduate school

Ghost Story
Lolita

Ghost Story by Peter Straub, the scariest book I’ve ever read, taught me I HATE to be scared
My all-time favorite is Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

 

We cherish our relationship with J.T. Ellison and the other wonderful Tennessee authors who support us. Thanks, J.T.!