Really Cool Women\'s Book Club

The Winners, dates and places October 7, 2015

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 11:57 pm

And we pulled it together at the last minute!!

The Job by Steve Osborne on November 19th, 2015 at Danda’s house

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf on January 7th (I went 7 weeks here to avoid a bookclub on New Year’s Eve) Heidi’s house

Headscarves & Hymens: why the Middle East needs a sexual revolution by Mona Eltahawy on February 18th at Lori’s house

 

Time to Vote! October 6, 2015

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 11:52 pm

Here are the books to vote on for the next three books for the winter reading season. You know the drill. Here is the survey monkey link and the review of the books are below. If you can vote by Thursday I’ll let you all know the winners.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SXYDMGD

A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert by Gertrude Bell
Barefoot Sisters Southbound, The (Adventures on the Appalachian Trail) by Lucie and Susan Letcher
Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Good Mourning by Elizabeth Meyer , Caitlin Moscatello
Headscarves & Hymens: why the Middle East needs a sexual revolution by Mona
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Latest Readings by Clive James
Mountains beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
M Train by Patti Smith
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle
The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel 
The double Life of Liliane by Lily Tuck
The Job by Steve Osborne
The Periodic Table by Primo Levi
The Sparrow  by Mary Doria Russell
Two Across by Jeff BartschThe Job by Steve Osborne

 

A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert by Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell was leaning in 100 years before Sheryl Sandberg. One of the great woman adventurers of the twentieth century, she turned her back on Victorian society to study at Oxford and travel the world, and became the chief architect of British policy in the Middle East after World War I. Mountaineer, archaeologist, Arabist, writer, poet, linguist, and spy, she dedicated her life to championing the Arab cause and was instrumental in drawing the borders that define today’s Middle East.

As she wrote in one of her letters, “It’s a bore being a woman when you are in Arabia.” Forthright and spirited, opinionated and playful, and deeply instructive about the Arab world, this volume brings together Bell’s letters, military dispatches, diary entries, and travel writings to offer an intimate look at a woman who shaped nations.

For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Barefoot Sisters Southbound, The (Adventures on the Appalachian Trail) by Lucie and Susan Letcher

At the ages of twenty-five and twenty-one, Lucy and Susan Letcher set out to accomplish what thousands of people attempt each year: thru-hike the entire 2,175 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The difference between them and the others? They decided to hike the trail barefoot. Quickly earning themselves the moniker of the Barefoot Sisters, the two begin their journey at Mount Katahdin and spend eight months making their way to Springer Mountain in Georgia. As they hike, they write about their adventures through the 100-mile Wilderness, the rocky terrain of Pennsylvania, and snowfall in the Great Smoky Mountains–a story filled with humor and determination. It’s as close as one can get to hiking the Appalachian Trail without strapping on a pack.

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

First in the Kurt Wallander series.

It was a senselessly violent crime: on a cold night in a remote Swedish farmhouse an elderly farmer is bludgeoned to death, and his wife is left to die with a noose around her neck. And as if this didn’t present enough problems for the Ystad police Inspector Kurt Wallander, the dying woman’s last word is foreign, leaving the police the one tangible clue they have–and in the process, the match that could inflame Sweden’s already smoldering anti-immigrant sentiments.

Unlike the situation with his ex-wife, his estranged daughter, or the beautiful but married young prosecuter who has peaked his interest, in this case, Wallander finds a problem he can handle. He quickly becomes obsessed with solving the crime before the already tense situation explodes, but soon comes to realize that it will require all his reserves of energy and dedication to solve.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch—”Scout”—returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past—a journey that can only be guided by one’s own conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision—a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.

Good Mourning by Elizabeth Meyer and Caitlin Moscatello

In this funny, insightful memoir, a young socialite risks social suicide when she takes a job at a legendary funeral chapel on New York Citys Upper East Side.Good Mourning offers a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most famous funeral homes in the country where not even big money can protect you from the universal experience of grieving. It’s *Gossip Girl* meets *Six Feet Under*, told from the unique perspective of a fashionista turned funeral planner.

Headscarves & Hymens: why the Middle East needs a sexual revolution by Mona Eltahawy

Turn to any page of Headscarves and Hymens and you’ll find a statistic or anecdote to make your blood boil . . . [Eltahawy] has now expanded that [Foreign Policy] article into a book, Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, which blends her own story-an ideological journey toward feminism while growing up in Egypt, England and Saudi Arabia-with a sweeping portrait of what life is like for women in the Middle East. The same righteous anger that propelled her essay fuels her book. It’s easy to see why she’s so incensed. (Bari Weiss The Wall Street Journal)

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
What is the one commonality of people on death row? If the victim is white, the perpetrator is 11 times more likely to be condemned to die than if the victim is black. When Stevenson was a 23-year-old Harvard law student, he started an internship in Georgia where his first assignment was to deliver a message to a man living on death row. This assignment became his calling: representing the innocent, the inadequately defended, the children, the domestic abuse survivors, the mentally ill—the imprisoned. This fast-paced book reads like a John Grisham novel. One of those profiled, Walter, was at a barbecue with over 100 people at the time of the murder he was accused of, and spent more than six years on death row. The stories include those of children, teens, and adults who have been in the system since they were teens. This is a title for the many young adults who have a parent or loved one in the prison system and the many others who are interested in social justice, the law, and the death penalty. A standout choice.—

Latest Readings by Clive James

In 2010, Clive James was diagnosed with terminal leukemia. Deciding that “if you don’t know the exact moment when the lights will go out, you might as well read until they do,” James moved his library to his house in Cambridge, where he would “live, read, and perhaps even write.” James is the award-winning author of dozens of works of literary criticism, poetry, and history, and this volume contains his reflections on what may well be his last reading list. A look at some of James’s old favorites as well as some of his recent discoveries, this book also offers a revealing look at the author himself, sharing his evocative musings on literature and family, and on living and dying.

As thoughtful and erudite as the works of Alberto Manguel, and as moving and inspiring as Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture and Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club, this valediction to James’s lifelong engagement with the written word is a captivating valentine from one of the great literary minds of our time.

Mountains beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

Paul Farmer is a 44-year-old specialist in infectious diseases and an attending physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. His biographer, Tracy Kidder, read his book on the connections between poverty and disease — Infections and Inequalities — and wrote to him, “I’m reading your oeuvre.” “Ah, but that’s not my oeuvre,” Farmer replied. “To see my oeuvre you have to come to Haiti.” Indeed, Farmer founded a hospital and health center, Zanmi Lasante, in Cange, Haiti, hours from the capital and at the end of a gutted road in a region destitute even by Haiti’s standards, as part of an extensive community-based health network linked to a hospital, Clinique Bon Sauveur (see Figure). For more than 20 years, Farmer has spent many months every year there, often taking care of patients himself and continually improving the treatments offered by the clinic. These now include antiretroviral drugs. Lasante is supported by a foundation based in Boston called Partners in Health, which is headed by Ophelia Dahl and largely financed by Tom White, the philanthropic owner of a large Boston construction firm. There is more. Through his patients in Cange, Farmer became interested in multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. From Haiti, he exported treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis to Peru and then to Siberia, achieving cure rates comparable to those in the United States. Through the Institute for Health and Social Justice (the research and education division of Partners in Health) and his associate Jim Yong Kim, he started a movement to lower prices for the second-line drugs necessary to treat resistant tuberculosis and successfully lobbied the World Health Organization for changes in treatment recommendations for tuberculosis. Readers may have heard some of this story before (Farmer has received a MacArthur award and the American Medical Association’s Dr. Nathan Davis Award) and may have wondered, as I did, where he came from and how one man could accomplish so much. Kidder traces Farmer’s trajectory, starting with his unconventional childhood, which included living in a bus and on a leaky boat. He was given a scholarship to Duke, where he majored in anthropology and worked alongside poor Haitian farm workers in North Carolina’s tobacco fields. After graduation he spent a year in Haiti, where he met Ophelia Dahl, and then went to Harvard Medical School. While in medical school and during his residencies and fellowships, he spent more time in Cange than in Boston. How does Farmer do it? Kidder provides some explanations: he works nonstop, hardly sleeps, sees his wife and child for a day or so every few months, inspires an uncommon degree of devotion and enthusiasm among collaborators and potential donors, and tolerates planes and airports for days on end. In addition, the Boston medical establishment has bent rules and regulations to accommodate his needs. Convincing? Maybe. There remains something miraculous about Paul Farmer. Should one go out and buy Mountains beyond Mountains? By all means. Not only it is it an enjoyable book, but it is also very likely that a part of the $25.95 spent in purchasing it will find its way back to Haiti. That is more than can be said about many books. In addition, readers looking for a worthwhile charity to support may be inspired to send some money to Partners in Health

M Train by Patti Smith

From the National Book Award–winning author of Just Kids: an unforgettable odyssey of a legendary artist, told through the prism of the cafés and haunts she has worked in around the world. It is a book Patti Smith has described as “a roadmap to my life.”

M Train begins in the tiny Greenwich Village café where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook. Through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, and across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations, we travel to Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Mexico; to a meeting of an Arctic explorer’s society in Berlin; to a ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York’s Far Rockaway that Smith acquires just before Hurricane Sandy hits; and to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud, and Mishima.

Woven throughout are reflections on the writer’s craft and on artistic creation. Here, too, are singular memories of Smith’s life in Michigan and the irremediable loss of her husband, Fred Sonic Smith.

Braiding despair with hope and consolation, illustrated with her signature Polaroids, M Train is a meditation on travel, detective shows, literature, and coffee. It is a powerful, deeply moving book by one of the most remarkable multiplatform artists at work today.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Elderly widow Addie Moore pays a visit to her aging widower neighbor, Louis Waters. They were never close, just knew each other peripherally, which makes the reason for this social call all the more intriguing. Addie would like to know if Louis is interested in sleeping with her. Now, now, this scenario was conceived by the late, great Kent Haruf—Our Souls at Night is no 50 Shades of Geriatric Grey. Set in the same fictional Colorado town as his National Book Award-nominated Plainsong, a town with its fair share of gossips, Addie and Louis embark on an unlikely friendship, an antidote to the loneliness they most exquisitely felt at night. As this friendship deepens, it is tested by said busybodies and meddling family members, plot points that almost distract from what makes this novel such a fitting and sweet swan song. Our Souls at Night was inspired, in part, by Haruf’s own marriage and the intimate, late-night conversations he and his wife relished, just like Addie and Louis. And just like Addie and Louis, Haruf proved that you’re never too old to reinvent yourself, take risks, find love, and write a great novel.

Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle


We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

Preeminent author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for over thirty years. Long an enthusiast for its possibilities, here she investigates a troubling consequence: at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don’t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves.

We develop a taste for what mere connection offers. The dinner table falls silent as children compete with phones for their parents’ attention. Friends learn strategies to keep conversations going when only a few people are looking up from their phones. At work, we retreat to our screens although it is conversation at the water cooler that increases not only productivity but commitment to work. Online, we only want to share opinions that our followers will agree with – a politics that shies away from the real conflicts and solutions of the public square.

The case for conversation begins with the necessary conversations of solitude and self-reflection. They are endangered: these days, always connected, we see loneliness as a problem that technology should solve. Afraid of being alone, we rely on other people to give us a sense of ourselves, and our capacity for empathy and relationship suffers. We see the costs of the flight from conversation everywhere: conversation is the cornerstone for democracy and in business it is good for the bottom line. In the private sphere, it builds empathy, friendship, love, learning, and productivity.

But there is good news: we are resilient. Conversation cures.

Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human—and humanizing—thing that we do.

The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, responds to our modern challenges. We have everything we need to start, we have each other.

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel 

Koppel offers a revealing glimpse into the lives of “the women behind the spacemen”—from Project Mercury, of the Kennedy years, to the two-man Gemini missions and finally the Apollo program. Beginning with the announcement in 1959 of the seven Mercury astronauts, Koppel paints chatty, personal portraits of each woman as she adjusts to dramatic changes: one day she’s living the life of an ordinary military wife; the next she’s married to a major celebrity. The wives were closely monitored by NASA and expected to be perfect, right down to what they wore and what food they served their husbands. They needed a support group, so the Astronaut Wives Club came into being in 1966. Over the years, they worked together in myriad ways, from helping the wives whose husbands died in crashes or Apollo I’s disastrous launch-pad fire to sleeping in the Lovell’s living room while Jim Lovell was orbiting the moon on Christmas Eve 1968. The U.S. moon program ended in 1972—but many of these unique women still remain connected, friends now for more than 50 years.

The double Life of Liliane by Lily Tuck  

Lily Tuck has had a wonderful and accomplished career as a National Book Award winning novelist, story writer, essayist and biographer. She is one of our most distinguished contributors to American literature. With The Double Life of Liliane, Tuck writes what may well be her crowning achievement to date, and, significantly too, her most autobiographical work. ??

As the child of a German movie producer father who lives in Italy and a beautiful, artistically talented mother who resides in New York, Liliane’s life is divided between those two very different worlds. A shy and observant only child with a vivid imagination, Liliane uncovers the stories of family members as diverse as Moses Mendelssohn, Mary Queen of Scots and an early Mexican adventurer, and pieces together their vivid histories, through both World Wars and across continents. ?

What unfolds is an astonishing and riveting metanarrative: an exploration of self, humanity, and family in the manner of W.G. Sebald and Karl Ove Knausgaard. Told with Tuck’s inimitable elegance and peppered with documents, photos, and a rich and varied array of characters, The Double Life of Liliane is an intimate and poignant coming of age portrait of the writer as a young woman.

The Job by Steve Osborne

How ya doin?”

With these four syllables, delivered in an unmistakably authentic New York accent, Steve Osborne has riveted thousands of people through the legendary storytelling outfit The Moth (and over a million times on their website) with his hilarious, profane, and touching tales from his twenty years served as an NYPD street cop. Steve Osborne is the real deal, people, the tough streetwise New York cop of your dreams, one with a big big heart. Kojak? NYPD Blue? Law & Order? Fuggedaboutem! The Job blows them out of the water with this unputdownable book. Steve Osborne has seen a thing or two in his twenty years in the NYPD—some harmless things, some definitely not. In “Stakeout,” Steve and his partner mistake a Manhattan dentist for an armed robbery suspect and reduce the man down to a puddle of snot and tears when questioning him. In “Mug Shot,” the mother of a suspected criminal makes a strange request and provides a sobering reminder of the humanity at stake in his profession. And in “Home,” the image of his family provides the adrenaline he needs to fight for his life when assaulted by two armed and violent crackheads. From his days as a rookie cop to the time spent patrolling in the Anti-Crime Unit—and his visceral, harrowing recollections of working during 9/11—Steve Osborne’s stories capture both the absurdity of police work and the bravery of those who do it. His stories will speak to those nostalgic for the New York City of the 1980s and ’90s, a bygone era of when the city was a crazier, more dangerous (and possibly more interesting) place.

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi 

Writer Primo Levi (1919-1987), an Italian Jew, did not come to the wide attention of the English-reading audience until the last years of his life. A survivor of the Holocaust and imprisonment in Auschwitz, Levi is considered to be one of the century’s most compelling voices, and The Periodic Table is his most famous book. Springboarding from his training as a chemist, Levi uses the elements as metaphors to create a cycle of linked, somewhat autobiographical tales, including stories of the Piedmontese Jewish community he came from, and of his response to the Holocaust. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

“I immersed myself in The Periodic Table gladly and gratefully. There is nothing superfluous here, everything this book contains is essential. It is wonderful pure, and beautifully translated…I was deeply impressed.” –Saul Bellow

Two Across by Jeff Bartsch

Highly awkward teenager Stanley Owens meets his match in beautiful, brainy Vera Baxter when they tie for first place in the annual National Spelling Bee-and the two form a bond that will change both of their lives.

Though their mothers have big plans for them-Stanley will become a senator, Vera a mathematics professor-neither wants to follow these pre-determined paths. So Stanley hatches a scheme to marry Vera in a sham wedding for the cash gifts, hoping they will enable him to pursue his one true love: crossword puzzle construction. In enlisting Vera to marry him, though, he neglects one variable: she’s secretly in love with him, which makes their counterfeit ceremony an exercise in misery for her.

Realizing the truth only after she’s moved away and cut him out of her life, Stanley tries to atone for his mistakes and win her back. But he’s unable to find her, until one day he comes across a puzzle whose clues make him think it could only have been created by Vera. Intrigued, he plays along, communicating back to her via his own gridded clues. But will they connect again before it’s all too late?

The Sparrow  by Mary Doria Russell

An enigma wrapped inside a mystery sets up expectations that prove difficult to fulfill in Russell’s first novel, which is about first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. The enigma is Father Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit linguist whose messianic virtues hide his occasional doubt about his calling. The mystery is the climactic turn of events that has left him the sole survivor of a secret Jesuit expedition to the planet Rakhat and, upon his return, made him a disgrace to his faith. Suspense escalates as the narrative ping-pongs between the years 2016, when Sandoz begins assembling the team that first detects signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life, and 2060, when a Vatican inquest is convened to coax an explanation from the physically mutilated and emotionally devastated priest. A vibrant cast of characters who come to life through their intense scientific and philosophical debates help distract attention from the space-opera elements necessary to get them off the Earth. Russell brings her training as a paleoanthropologist to bear on descriptions of the Runa and Jana’ata, the two races on Rakhat whose differences are misunderstood by the Earthlings, but the aliens never come across as more than variations of primitive earthly cultures. The final revelation of the tragic human mistake that ends in Sandoz’s degradation isn’t the event for which readers have been set up. Much like the worlds it juxtaposes, this novel seems composed of two stories that fail to come together.