Take on the 2015 Summer Reading Challenge

Published 12:05 am Sunday, May 17, 2015

By Deirdre Parker Smith


Here’s something to look forward to — the 2015 Summer Reading Challenge.

Jennifer Hubbard, her husband Steve Cobb and Charlie Lovett, an author who splits his time between Winston-Salem and England, will discuss the books.

Hubbard went with a good formula, a classic, a new novel and a hot non-fiction work.

The classic is Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” a timeless classic Hubbard chose, at least partially, because she wants to read it again. The new book is “First Impressions,” by Lovett. His first book was the bestselling “The Bookman’s Tale.” This second book ties in to “Pride and Prejudice” because it’s about Jane Austen, and switches from past to present.

For non-fiction, Cobb chose “Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania,” by Erik Larson. “Dead Wake” has been on the bestseller list for a long time since its 2014 publication. Larson is known for his thrilling nonfiction, including “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America.”

Hubbard admits “Pride and Prejudice” is a long book, but she has an idea to help readers and their families get through it. There are numerous movie adaptations of the novel. “It might be fun to look at those as a family and compare them and compare them to the book.” Her favorite adaptation is the BBC’s 1995 mini-series, starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. There was also a 2005 movie with Keira Knightley. The 1940 version stars Maureen O’Sullivan, Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson.

There are numerous versions of the book, as well, and Hubbard will be using the Oxford University Press edition.

Literary Bookpost is ordering copies of all the Challenge books, which are also available at the library and online.

What should you think about when reading “Pride and Prejudice”? “Look for Austen’s economy and swiftness” in creating her characters. “It’s a novel of small town life,” Hubbard said, and while society has certainly changed, human nature has not, even 200 years later. The book looks at the class system, points out the phonies and the authentic people and has a subtle, delicate humor.

Austen died young, but wrote five novels that have withstood the test of time, Hubbard says. “And she had no technology, not even a typewriter.”

Another lesson from “Pride and Prejudice” is parenting styles. “When I taught this book to boys, they were surprised by how Mr. Bennett left all the work to his wife.”

Lovett’s book, “First Impressions,” jumps back and forth from present day to the 1800s, following two young women, Sophie, in the present, and Jane Austen. Hubbard says it’s a little like History Detectives. And it has a little romance. “It’s very historically accurate, but it is not historical fiction.”

Lovett, she said, does a good job of weaving the real details with fiction. Because Hubbard is a big Austen fan, this book seemed a good fit. Lovett, who graduated from Davidson College, is the son of a former Wake Forest University English professor. He is an entertaining speaker who was one of the authors at this spring’s Rowan Reading Rendezvous. His presentation there was one of the most popular.

“Dead Wake” will be similar to last year’s nonfiction, “Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase of Lincoln’s Killer,” in that it recounts a real event. The facts are amazing enough, without any fiction.

The depth of Larson’s research always shows, and in uncovering the history of the cruise ship’s sinking by German torpedos, he found ways to bring readers fully into the history. Larson uses a list of the Lusitania’s passengers and crew and finds a cross-section of 1915 America on the ship. He raises many questions about America’s response to the war in Europe and provides insight into American society at the time.

All the discussions will take place at Rowan Public Library at 7 p.m. on three Tuesdays. Trinity Oaks and the Salisbury Post are among this year’s sponsors.

The “Pride and Prejudice” discussion. led by Hubbard, will be Tuesday, June 23; author Charlie Lovett will come to talk about his book, “First Impressions,” on Tuesday, July 21; and Cobb will discuss “Dead Wake” on Tuesday Aug. 18.

So start reading. No pop quizzes, we promise. Just a fun time talking about three very different books. See you then.