Brian Jedwab on 8 Ways to Discuss a “Light” Book

Brian JedwabChoosing which books to read is an important task for book club members. Most book clubs look for engaging stories that promote group discussion. But while many books engage readers, they don’t all contain serious themes, complex characters, and other elements that make them discussable. Still, a “light” read now and then can be a refreshing choice for book clubs. And with the right questions, light books can actually encourage some of the deepest conversations yet.

So how do you discuss a book that, on the surface, doesn’t lend itself to discussion? Here are eight ideas from Brian Jedwab to get you started:

Talk about how the book reminds you of other books your group has read. Do any of the characters resemble characters from a different, deeper story? Does the plot, in a simpler way, mirror the story line of another novel? Compare how different authors handle these similarities.

Focus on a particular chapter or part of the book that has the most depth or that was particularly effective for you as a reader. Then discuss why you liked that chapter, how it enhanced the story, and whether you would change anything about it.

Do a character analysis of a character in the book that seems the most multidimensional or interesting. What makes him or her so intriguing? How is he or she different from the other characters? Who might play this character if the book becomes a movie?

Discuss the author. Do some research before the book club meeting, and get to know the book’s author. Gather information from his or her website or the publisher, including interviews, a biography, and photos. Then share notes about the author at your meeting.

Consider what formula makes this book so readable, even if there isn’t much to discuss. Is it the author’s style, language, or pacing? Did dialogue play a factor? Was the ending as satisfying as the rest of the book? What other qualities about the book kept you engaged?

Comment on the book’s flaws. Does the story contain some obvious (or not so obvious) inconsistencies? Maybe certain parts of the book made you roll your eyes. If so, do you think the author could have avoided those flaws without ruining the reading experience?

Take turns discussing how the book relates to your life. Do you see yourself in any of the character roles? Think about the conflicts in the story and whether you have experienced anything similar. Does the book offer any suggestions for dealing with your own problems?

Think about a serious issue in the book that has relevance today, then talk about it. Even fluffy romance novels contain serious issues—war, crime, breakups, family life, and women’s issues, for example. Debate whether the topic was portrayed realistically in the book.

When it comes to book club selections, don’t discount a light read. Sometimes, it’s just what a book club needs—for fun and a fulfilling discussion.

The opinions above are solely those of Brian Jedwab.

Brian Jedwab Reviews Inferno

Brian JedwabInferno is a thrilling mystery novel that is named after and revolves around the first part of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Written by author Dan Brown, who is most famous for The Da Vinci Code, Inferno brings all of the thrills and twists that fans have learned to expect from a Dan Brown novel. Inferno grips the reader from the very beginning, spinning an intriguing web of questions which make it nearly impossible to put this book down.

The plot is complex but incredibly detailed, leaving no discrepancy overlooked. There are many twists and turns as the main character Robert Langdon is chased through Italy while trying to figure out how he ended up at the center of such an unusual string of events. The reader hoping for satisfactory answers to the many questions raised throughout the course of this book is not likely to be disappointed as Dan Brown weaves everything into a masterful whole.

Cultural, artistic, and literary references abound in Inferno, making the reader feel more cultured while simply sitting in their own home. It feels as if you are along for the ride on the streets of cities such as Florence and Venice. It is a little difficult to believe that anyone would stop to recall minute details of various artistic works while on the run, as Langdon often does, but the character is crafted with such a passion for the culture around him that it is possible to suspend disbelief and simply enjoy the information.

As is typical in Dan Brown’s novels about Robert Langdon, Langdon is once again joined by a beautiful and smart female companion who, of course, is attracted to him as well. This setup does begin to look quite formulaic the fourth time around. However, as the novel goes on and Sienna’s complex character is slowly revealed, she stands strongly on her own and becomes so much more than just a potential love interest.

The plot of Inferno revolves around some difficult philosophical questions and even more difficult situations. The reader is thrilled, entertained, and intrigued, but is also asked to think. Heavy moral issues are presented, but no one answer is forced upon the audience. Every character thinks in different and nuanced ways about these moral quandaries.

If you’ve enjoyed Dan Brown’s other works you should definitely pick this one up as well. It is as good as, and perhaps even better than, his previous offerings. Even if you have never picked up one of Brown’s Robert Langdon novels, Inferno is a great place to start. Amidst its adventure, mystery, and suspense, and its references to important literary and artistic works, Inferno offers something for almost anyone. Once you pick it up you will likely find yourself unable to put this fast-paced book down.

The opinions above are solely those of Brian Jedwab.

Brian Jedwab Explains Five Misconceptions About Comic Books

Brian JedwabMany misconceptions exist about comic books as a medium that fans have to deal with on a daily basis. You might hear a person say that comic books are “silly” or are “just for kids.” Likewise, you may talk to a person who claims to have a fortune in comic books tucked away in an attic to finance their retirement. All of these misconceptions and more have cropped up over the years, and they need to be addressed so that comics in general can continue to grow and draw in more fans.

Misconception: Comic books are just for kids.

In the nascent days of the comic book medium, it’s very true that most titles were aimed at children. These eras include comic books produced from the 1930s all the way up to the 1970s. Even during these periods, however, horror comics and other types of books were aimed more at adults than at their younger counterparts. Likewise, the 1980s saw a boom in adult-oriented material. Much of this even featured familiar characters, like Frank Miller’s “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” or Alan Moore’s seminal “Watchmen.” These titles in particular are very graphic and violent and are not suitable for kids, but adults will find much to love and enjoy.

Misconception: Comic books are worth a lot of money.

When you see a comic book that sells for a million dollars, it’s easy to assume that all comic books are eventually worth that much. In reality, the only comics that are typically worth large sums of money are ones from the 1970s and earlier. Any issue newer than that may be worth a few hundred dollars, but even that is a rarity. What typically matters is what is going on inside the comic book. If the issue features the first appearance of a popular character, an important death or is the beginning of a popular storyline, it is likely to be worth more money than just any old random issue. Comic books from the 1990s and up are typically worth their cover price, if that. The reality of the situation is that it is very, very unlikely that you’ve got a comic book in your home that will finance your retirement or your children’s college education.

Misconception: The condition of a comic book doesn’t matter.

Even if you have one of those rare comics that is worth a lot of money, it won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on if the condition isn’t as close to perfect as it can be. “Action Comics #1”, for example, featured the first appearance of Superman and can sell for over a million dollars in good condition. If that comic has been sitting in an attic or at the bottom of a birdcage for sixty years, however, it’s verylikely to not be worth anything at all.

Misconception: Comic books are only for people who like superheroes.

While a large majority of comic books feature costumed superheroes and villains battling it out, a wide variety of different books feature no costumes at all. Horror comics, thrillers and even drama comics exist and are aimed at readers who either don’t like superheroes at all or just want a little variety in their reading material. The 2002 film “Road to Perdition” starring Tom Hanks, for example, is a period piece about a mobster traveling across the country with his young son. It was based on a comic book.

Misconception: Comics books aren’t an art form. If they are, then they certainly aren’t literature.

Both of these statements are patently untrue. In recent decades comic books have come to be accepted both as an art form and as a legitimate form of literature by millions of people all over the world. Time Magazine even included a comic book on their list of the top American novels published since 1900. The comic book in question was “Watchmen” by Alan Moore.

The opinions above are solely those of Brian Jedwab.

Brian Jedwab Reviews Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

Brian JedwabYou may not know this, but Brian Jedwab is a huge Carl Sagan fan. It was Sagan’s book, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space that first turned me on to the Universe and the amazing future we humans have in space and knowledge. Sagan, as many of you know, popularized science and inspired a generation of scientists, engineers, physicists and both amateur and professional astronomers. Many of my readers are probably familiar with Carl Sagan from his inspiring “Pale Blue Dot” speech which was regarding the pictures Voyager One took as it passed the last planets in our Solar System in 1990. Sagan’s book outlined his proposed and anticipated vision for the future of human exploration. I have heard in the past that books such as Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space are not worth reading or recommending because the material speaks about a time that has already past as the “future”. However, I vehemently disagree. Reading what the great thinkers and authors of previous times envisioned for our future puts where we are today in perspective. Some might say this book is dated, but in my opinion -it’s definitely still and always will be worth a read.

The opinions above are solely those of Brian Jedwab.

Brian Jedwab Reviews The Night Circus

Brian Jedwab

I was on the subway heading home this weekend and I sat next to someone who was reading one of my favorite books of all time, The Night Circus – written by Erin Morgenstern. I first read The Night Circus shortly after it came out, and the originality and uniqueness of the book really struck me. Erin Morgenstern tells a really good story with The Night Circus and the book is extremely riveting and difficult to put down. I read the book in a single day, and I just couldn’t put it down once I started. The enchanting characters who are introduced, and the aesthetics of Le Cirque des Rêves are extremely well developed. The way the circus is described and the costumes the characters wear could fit in a book on their own. The engrossing nature of the story and the quirky characters truly bring the circus to life – even for people who aren’t familiar with the big top. The book is also a refreshing change from the status quo of everyday reading material. Without hesitation, I would recommend this book to all readers looking for something a little different and of the highest writing quality.

The opinions above are solely those of Brian Jedwab.

Brian Jedwab Answers: How Can I Get My Kids To Read More?

Brian JedwabReader Question (Melissa): Brian, how can I get my children to read on a regular basis? Is there anything I can do, or any programs that you could recommend?

Brian Jedwab Answers: Reading is a vital skill all children need to learn. If a child becomes an avid reader, he stands a better chance at succeeding in classes, potentially opening up doors to careers that offer a prosperous future. You as a parent have the ability to encourage your children to read more by engaging in a few simple practices.

Buy books or borrow books from the library that you children find interesting. Always be listening and watching your child to determine what his interests are. Once you know your child’s interests, constantly be on the lookout for books on the same or related subjects. Children, just like adults, are more likely to read when they have books that are interesting to them.

Allow your children to read in bed. While children need their sleep, letting them read in bed has several benefits. Reading helps people relax and lead to a more restful night’s sleep. Your child will also develop the habit of reading daily, which helps with educational pursuits up through college. If you are concerned that reading time is cutting into your child’s sleep time, put your child to bed earlier. Set a timer so you and your child know when reading time is over and it is time to sleep.

Create a reading corner or other reading spot in your house. If your child has a special spot that is private and cozy, he is more likely to read often. Your reading area can consist of a few pillows in a corner. You can also consider constructing a special spot under the stairs or in another secluded location.

Keep a variety of books on hand. The best way to do this is to keep a library of books at your house. Your personal library should include a variety of books so your children can easily expose themselves to a variety of books. This means you should have both fiction and nonfiction, art or photography books and both classic and modern works. Keeping books around shows children that you value books, teaching them a powerful lesson.

Be a good example and read books. Again, your children learn by example and so you should pick up a book and read regularly. Simply telling your child that reading is important is not enough. Also, read with your child on a regular basis, giving you the chance to check up on your child’s reading abilities and to teach them more about language.

If you feel differently and you have an example you would like to share, let me know in the comments section or send me an email.

The opinions expressed above are solely those of Brian Jedwab.

Questions and Answers: Once every few weeks (or months!), Brian answers reader questions from the Brian Jedwab Book Reviews mailbox. Readers can send questions via social media or by emailing Brian directly.

Brian Jedwab Reviews The Affair

Brian JedwabAfter Lee Child’s recent comments in the media (if you missed them, a link can be found here), dedicated readers of the Brian Jedwab Book Review blog knew it was only a matter of time before a Jack Reacher book was going to be reviewed.

I read The Affair shortly after it came out in 2011. The Affair, as with many other Jack Reacher novels is a masterful attempt at making an old and overused story idea into something actually interesting and full of unique twists and turns. Between the conflicting instructions Reacher receives from the army and the love story that inevitably develops, this book stands out from the other similarly written novels as a book that is a must read. Child’s ability to develop characters and make them seem like actual people as well as his ability to churn out Jack Reacher books year after year without making the story or the character into an overused and overdeveloped caricature are what makes him into the celebrated author that he is. Even more amazingly, Child’s novels still win him accolades and praise while making bestseller and top ten lists in both print and e-books sales.

The opinions above are solely those of Brian Jedwab.