Lasting aftertaste of Prohibition in books

Boardwalk Empire

By Amy Lyn

“Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City”, by Nelson Johnson
“Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City”, by Nelson Johnson

In January 1920 the 18th Amendment, which banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors ushered in the Prohibition era. Despite very early signs of success, prohibition was difficult to enforce. People who wanted to keep drinking found even more inventive and potentially dangerous ways to do it.

Individuals made “moonshine” or “bathtub gin” at their houses, illegal nightclubs selling alcohol known as “speakeasies” were plentiful and supplied by the rise of criminal activity associated with bootlegging.

These illegal operations fueled an increase in gang violence, and the rise of the most notorious gangster in American History, Al Capone who ran Chicago’s largest bootlegging, gambling and prostitution syndicate.

It took 13 years before the law was repealed by the 21st Amendment ending prohibition on December 5,1933. The age of Prohibition changed the face of fashion, music and the criminal underground. It was an era of over indulgence that left behind a fascination and hunger for fact and fiction on an era that is immortalized in books with thrilling stories of an age not soon forgotten.

Here are some books based on the Prohibition era that you should check out.

“Vixen” (Flappers #1), by Jillian Larkin
“Vixen” (Flappers #1), by Jillian Larkin
“Water for Elephants”, by Sara Gruen
“Water for Elephants”, by Sara Gruen
“The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York”, by Deborah Blum
“The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York”, by Deborah Blum
“The Untouchables”, by Eliot Ness, Oscar Fraley
“The Untouchables”, by Eliot Ness, Oscar Fraley
"Live by Night” (Coughlin #2), by Dennis Lehane
“Live by Night” (Coughlin #2), by Dennis Lehane
“Once Upon a Time in America” (BFI Modern Classics / BFI Film Classics), by Adrian Martin
“Once Upon a Time in America” (BFI Modern Classics / BFI Film Classics), by Adrian Martin
“Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition”, by Daniel Okrent
“Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition”, by Daniel Okrent
“The Great Gatsby”, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“The Great Gatsby”, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Black Duck”, by Janet Taylor Lisle
“Black Duck”, by Janet Taylor Lisle
“Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition”, by Karen Blumenthal
“Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition”, by Karen Blumenthal

World Book Night spreads the love of reading from person to person

wbn logo

On November 24, 2013 the Word Book Night organization announced the addition of three book titles for book givers to choose from because of overwhelming demand. The number of books to be be given away will increase to 550,000.

According to the Carl Lennertz, Executive Director of World Book Night U.S.,  “Sadly, the call for books for at-risk teens across the country is growing, from underfunded schools to foster homes to tutoring programs, but it’s encouraging that our givers are seeing that need and want to reach out with a book. “

The additional WBN US picks for 2014 are:

(Click on the book title or book cover image for more information)

Zora and Me Me and Earl and the Dying Girl The Raven's Warrior

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews (Amulet/Abrams)

Zora and Me” by Victoria Bond and T.S. Simon (Candlewick)

The Raven’s Warrior” by Vincent Pratchett (YMAA Publications)

World Book Night U.S. is part of an ambitious campaign to encourage light and non-readers to read. A half million free paperbacks will be handed out across America April 23, 2014 by 25,000 volunteer book lovers.

The online giver application process opened on October 24, 2013 and continues through January 5, 2014. Applicants must state where and to whom they intend to give out their 20 WBN special paperbacks.

The 35 World Book Night U.S. titles for 2014, alphabetical by author, are:

(Click on the book cover or title below for more information)

Bobcat and Other Stories Bridge to Terabithia pontoon Catch-22 Code Name Verity

thin black line

Enchanted Hoot Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Kitchen Confidential Miss Darcy Falls in Love

thin black line

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Presumed Innocent Same Difference Sunrise Over Fallujah Tales of the City

thin black line

The Botany of Desire The Dog Stars The Lighthouse Road The Perks of Being a Wallflower The Ruins of Gorlan Ranger’s Apprentice Book 1

thin black line

The Tipping Point The Weird Sisters The Zookeeper’s Wife This Boy’s Life Wait Till Next Year

thin black line

Young Men and Fire Wild Where’d You Go, Bernadette When I Was Puerto Rican Waiting to Exhale

thin black line

The Zookeeper’s Wife” by Diane Ackerman (W.W. Norton)

Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain (Ecco)

The Weird Sisters” by Eleanor Brown (Berkley)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky(Simon & Schuster)

After the Funeral” by Agatha Christie (William Morrow Paperbacks)

The Ruins of Gorlan: Ranger’s Apprentice Book 1” by John Flanagan (Puffin Books)

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford (Ballantine Books)

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” (in Large Print) by Jamie Ford (Thorndike/Gale; Cengage Learning)

The Lighthouse Road” by Peter Geye (Unbridled Books)

The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell (Back Bay Books)

Wait Till Next Year” by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon & Schuster)

Catch-22” by Joseph Heller (Simon & Schuster)

The Dog Stars” by Peter Heller (Vintage)

Hoot” by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf)

Pontoon: A Novel of Lake Wobegon” by Garrison Keillor (Penguin Books)

Same Difference” by Derek Kirk Kim (First Second Books)

Enchanted” by Alethea Kontis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Miss Darcy Falls in Love” by Sharon Lathan (Sourcebooks)

Bobcat and Other Stories” by Rebecca Lee (Algonquin Books)

Young Men and Fire” by Norman Maclean (University of Chicago Press)

Tales of the City” by Armistead Maupin  (HarperPerennial)

Waiting to Exhale” by Terry McMillan (New American Library)

Sunrise Over Fallujah” by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic)

Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson (HarperTrophy)

The Botany of Desire” by Michael Pollan (Random House)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs (Quirk Books)

When I Was Puerto Rican” by Esmeralda Santiago (Da Capo)

Cuando Era Puertorriqueña” by Esmeralda Santiago (Vintage Español)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple (Back Bay Books)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple in Large Print (Thorndike/Gale; Cengage Learning)

Wild” by  Cheryl Strayed (Vintage)

Presumed Innocent” by Scott Turow (Grand Central Publishing)

Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein (Disney Hyperion)

This Boy’s Life” by Tobias Wolff (Grove Atlantic)

100 Best-Loved Poems” edited by Philip Smith (Dover)

Trilogy Books ~ by Amy Lyn

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I was just reviewing my most recent books read on my Good Reads list and I noticed I’ve been reading a lot of trilogies lately. It started when I finished the  Jack Reacher series by Lee Child and I was looking to try something new.

I’d heard a lot of buzz about the “Millenium Trilogy”  and thought I’d give it a go. This was well before the Americanized movie version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was released.

Español: La protagonista de la controvertida &...
Noomi Rapace (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I actually read the first book then watched the Swedish version of the movie starring Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander on Netflix. Noomi is fantastic and totally convincing in her role. I then read the second book, watched the movie and the same with the third. I can not imagine anyone playing it better and refused to watched the American version, even though I am a fan of Daniel Craig.

I must admit though, after the first 25 pages or so of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” I almost gave up on the book. It was so boring talking about the magazine and finances blah blah blah. I scanned forward about 50 pages and BAM, there she was kicking ass and taking names. So I flipped back to where I had stopped and pushed on and it was soooo worth it. My advice, skip the first 50 or so pages then dive in head first.

beverly lewis

The next trilogy I read was “The Heritage of Lancaster County” by Beverly Lewis. I came upon this set of books when I was looking for the most recent book in the “Elm Creek Quilts” series of books by Jennifer Chiaverini. The one I was looking for was out and someone had mis-shelved the first book in this series “The Shunning“. 

This was a really captivating tale of mystery, longing, heart-break and romance. A truly eye-opening view into the Amish way of life and the emotional aftermath of a shunning.

But, I’m not much for the romantic novels and needed something meatier to sink my teeth into after that tear jerker trilogy. Honestly I didn’t set out to read another trilogy. But it just so happened that I spotted the name Guillermo del Toro on the new book shelf and immediately thought, “Oh this is going to be good.”

the strain trilogy guillermo deltoro chuck hoganThe “Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan was a vampire story like none I’ve ever read. I hadn’t read a really good, scare your socks off horror in a loooong time. So a big THANK YOU to the authors for scaring me sleepless and making me jump at every little bump in the night.  This set of books will be getting a review all their own from me soon. I read all three in January, I just couldn’t put them down. Now that the images aren’t so ingrained in my head, I think I’ll go back for another bite and read through them again.

The Books of History Chronicles by Ted Dekker
Rounding out my trilogy reading was “The Books of History Chronicles” by Ted Dekker. According to the author this trilogy was a “circle book”. Meaning you could start with any of the three books and still be able to follow the story.

I picked one of the books and read the author’s preface that said he recommended starting with “Sinner” first then “Saint” then “Showdown”. But, after reading all three books I would have read them in the opposite order. By starting with “Saint” I felt like I was working my way counterclockwise around the story. “Showdown” really introduces you to the characters and lays the groundwork for the why of it all.

These books are a fantastical story of good versus evil with lots of biblical references and what if scenarios. What if there were books you could write in to change the path of history?

10 Things You Should Know About The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

steinbeck grapes of wrath
Cover of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck...
Image via Wikipedia

I read a lot. But, no matter the genre or author I veer toward in the moment, John Steinbeck is and will always be my all time favorite author.

The first book of his I read was “East of Eden” when I was in the fourth grade. Perhaps a little too young to understand all the concepts, but it was the first time I clearly remember the characters, sights and sounds of a book crystallizing in my mind’s eye.

One Saturday afternoon I stumbled upon “East of Eden” starring James Dean playing on the TV.

Somehow I was alone and able to watch my channel without being forced to change it by parents or siblings who had no interest in classic movies. Unfortunately, I was only able to watch about half an hour before my sisters rudely changed the channel to some inane cartoon.

But, in that brief moment in time I fell in love for the first time. James Dean has been my favorite actor ever since. The way he talked, his mannerisms, his beautiful face and that painful, smoldering look in his eyes that just breaks your heart.

The next time I went to the library I searched out the book and gobbled it up along with every other Steinbeck novel my library offered.

Over the years I have read and re-read many of his books and each time fall deeper in love with Steinbeck’s writing style. I only wish words would flow so effortlessly and colorfully from my own fingertips.

The Grapes of Wrath is second on my list of Steinbeck favorites. It is one that is difficult to read because the truth is overpowering, but you will savor every turn of the page.

Here are 10 Things you should know about The Grapes Of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath was written by John Steinbeck and developed out a series of article he wrote for the San Francisco News called “The Harvest Gypsies”. These articles ran in the paper from October 5 through October 12, 1936. This series of stories was about the migrant workers who came from the Midwest to work in the California agriculture industry.


The novel, Grapes of Wrath, based on those articles was published in 1939 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.


Although categorized as fiction, this is really an epic work of realistic fiction and social commentary on the people, places and signs of the time.


The time frame is the late 1930’s during the Great Depression. The novel begins with the Joad family in Oklahoma and follows them on their journey to California.

Protagonist and Symbolism

Tom Joad is the protagonist of this novel, he is also the symbol of growth and rebirth. The story begins just after Tom is release from prison where he served a sentence for homicide. Upon his release he is a selfish man determined to mind his own business. But through his journey and living as a migrant worker in California, the experiences with his mother and the former preacher Casey philosophy of the Oversoul, he builds concern for his family’s welfare and becomes the head of the family. He also is concerned with the welfare of all families and by the end is willing to sacrifice his life for others.

Major Theme

The horrible treatment of the migrant workers is highlighting in the story of the Joads. The novel humanizes the horrors of daily life for the migrant workers and the effects of the Great Depression and poverty on them and everyone around them. Steinbeck’s novel is a plea to end the inhumane treatment to his fellow man.

Major Conflict

Due to the 1930s drought which caused the Dust Bowl, families were forced to moved west in hope of a better life. Poverty stricken, they took work wherever they could find it to keep themselves and their families alive. This pitted the current migrant workers against the incoming workers, against the property owners and the destitute. Tom Joad symbolized the instant human response to respond to a disaster by focusing on one’s own needs and the underlying need to support his fellow man and work toward a common good.

Minor Themes

Humanity Must Adapt to to Survive

The Grapes of Wrath shows that in order for humanity to survive and thrive it must adapt to the changing environment. The migrant workers must learn how to live in their squalid conditions, and make them better on their own before working toward a greater good. The landowners must learn to adapt to new rules if they expect to continue to own and farm their land. Families must learn to adapt to uncontrollable change to keep their families together.  This underlies another minor theme of Family Survival.

Dignity and the Strength of the Human Spirit

The hardships faced by the migrant workers just trying to survive and keep their families alive and together puts most characters in survival mode at almost an animalistic level. Despite these hardships, the Joads act proudly and even through their search for food and shelter, try to maintain a sense of human dignity.


This is a tragic fictional story build on the truth of the devastation of the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression and the human will to survive. Although the mood for the majority of the novel is dark and depressing, there are moments of light-hearted humor providing a little respite and break from the doom and gloom. In the end the reader can see the human spirit’s ability to survive against all odds.


Although it was a movie that first brought me into Steinbeck’s world, the images he created in my head are much more vivid than those on the screen.