Really Cool Women\'s Book Club

Time to vote for books November 13, 2017

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 11:04 pm

Please go to Survey Monkey at link below and vote for 3 books.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NN7T6KW

Boys in the Trees:  A memoir by Carly Simon

In the trees is just about the only place in Carly Simon’s world that there aren’t boys, suggests this unputdownable memoir by the beloved singer and the first artist in history to win a Grammy Award, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe Award for the same song (“Let the River Run” from the movieWorking Girl). Growing up the privileged but congenitally anxious daughter of a high-flying publishing executive, Simon learned early on – perhaps from her mother, who moved a much younger male “assistant” into the house when the Simon sisters were small – to crave love and attention. Some of this she got, of course, from performing, even though she famously suffers from crippling stage fright. The rest she sought from men – and her encounters with guys known mostly by their bold-faced first names – Mick, Warren, Jack – are well (and sometimes painfully honestly) documented here. (And yes, she finally reveals who her song “You’re So Vain” refers to – sort of.) But it is the story of her marriage to fellow musician and Martha’s Vineyard resident James Taylor – whom she met first as a young teenager – that is the most resonant. Although the union lasted two decades, and produced two children – and despite the fact that Simon and Taylor are now not in touch – it is clear that JT is Simon’s real-life torch song, the original man who got away

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

The acclaimed, bestselling author—winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize—tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families’ lives.One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families. Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.

Hag-Seed (Hogarth Shakespeare) by Margaret Attwood

 William Shakespeare’s The Tempest retold as Hag-Seed
Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he’s staging a Tempestlike no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds.
Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge.
After twelve years, revenge finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here, Felix and his inmate actors will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. It’s magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?
Margaret Atwood’s novel take on Shakespeare’s play of enchantment, retribution, and second chances leads us on an interactive, illusion-ridden journey filled with new surprises and wonders of its own.

Hunger by Roxane Gay

From the New York Times best-selling author of Bad Feminist, a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself. “I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.” New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and bodies, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she casts an insightful and critical eye on her childhood, teens, and twenties—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers into the present and the realities, pains, and joys of her daily life. With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and authority that have made her one of the most admired voices of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to be overweight in a time when the bigger you are, the less you are seen. Hunger is a deeply personal memoir from one of our finest writers, and tells a story that hasn’t yet been told but needs to be.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster. 

New Boy (Hogarth Shakespeare) by Tracy Chevalier

Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day – so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.
The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970s suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Peeking over the shoulders of four 11 year olds – Osei, Dee, Ian, and his reluctant ‘girlfriend’ Mimi – Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

Reasonable Creatures by Katha Pollitt

Pollitt, a prize-winning poet whose incisive political and social commentary appears in the Nation and other journals, here gathers previously published works that have in common a “concern for women’s entitlement to full human rights.” She brings a lively wit and considerable erudition to analyzing topics ranging from date rape to media-bashing of Hillary Clinton, and she consistently sees past the ephemeral quality of specific newsmaking events to locate issues of enduring importance. For example, in her 1987 essay about the famous Baby M case, Pollitt focuses not on the characters and morals of Mary Beth Whitehead and William and Elizabeth Stern but on the nature of the transaction between them, “an inherently unequal relationship involving the sale of a woman’s body and a child.” One wishes only that Pollitt had taken the occasion of book publication to supply the sources of her data or to direct the reader to the salient passages in the works she cites. These, however, are minor lapses in a collection of major interest.

Shrill by Lindy West

Shrill is an uproarious memoir, a feminist rallying cry in a world that thinks gender politics are tedious and that women, especially feminists, can’t be funny.
Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible–like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you–writer and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered that she was anything but.
From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.
With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss, and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps

Soonish by Zach and Kelly Weinersmith

What will the world of tomorrow be like? How does progress happen? And why do we not have a lunar colony already? What is the hold-up?
In this smart and funny book, celebrated cartoonist Zach Weinersmith and noted researcher Dr. Kelly Weinersmith give us a snapshot of what’s coming next — from robot swarms to nuclear fusion powered-toasters. By weaving their own research, interviews with the scientists who are making these advances happen, and Zach’s trademark comics, the Weinersmiths investigate why these technologies are needed, how they would work, and what is standing in their way.
New technologies are almost never the work of isolated geniuses with a neat idea. A given future technology may need any number of intermediate technologies to develop first, and many of these critical advances may appear to be irrelevant when they are first discovered. The journey to progress is full of strange detours and blind alleys that tell us so much about the human mind and the march of civilization.
To this end, Soonish investigates ten different emerging fields, from programmable matter to augmented reality, from space elevators to robotic construction, to show us the amazing world we will have, you know, soonish.

Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years by David Litt:

More than any other presidency, Barack Obama’s eight years in the White House were defined by young people – twenty-somethings who didn’t have much experience in politics (or anything else, for that matter), yet suddenly found themselves in the most high-stakes office building on earth. David Litt was one of those twenty-somethings. After graduating from college in 2008, he went straight to the Obama campaign. In 2011, he became one of the youngest White House speechwriters in history. Until leaving the White House in 2016, he wrote on topics from healthcare to climate change to criminal justice reform. As President Obama’s go-to comedy writer, he also took the lead on the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the so-called “State of the Union of jokes.”

The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Manfred Baumann is a loner. Socially awkward and perpetually ill at ease, he spends his evenings quietly drinking and surreptitiously observing Adèle Bedeau, the sullen but alluring waitress at a drab bistro in the unremarkable small French town of Saint-Louis. One day, she simply vanishes into thin air and Georges Gorski, a detective haunted by his failure to solve one of his first murder cases, is called in to investigate the girl’s disappearance. He sets his sights on Manfred.
As Manfred cowers beneath Gorski’s watchful eye, the murderous secrets of his past begin to catch up with him and his carefully crafted veneer of normalcy falters. His booze-soaked unraveling carries him from Saint-Louis to the back alleys of Strasbourg. Graeme Macrae Burnet’s masterful play on literary form featuring an unreliable narrator makes for a grimly entertaining psychological thriller that questions if it is possible, or even desirable, to know another man’s mind.

The Man Who Touched His own Heart by Robb Dunn

The Man Who Touched His Own Heart tells the raucous, gory, mesmerizing story of the heart, from the first “explorers” who dug up cadavers and plumbed their hearts’ chambers, through the first heart surgeries-which had to be completed in three minutes before death arrived-to heart transplants and the latest medical efforts to prolong our hearts’ lives, almost defying nature in the process.
Thought of as the seat of our soul, then as a mysteriously animated object, the heart is still more a mystery than it is understood. Why do most animals only get one billion beats? (And how did modern humans get to over two billion-effectively letting us live out two lives?) Why are sufferers of gingivitis more likely to have heart attacks? Why do we often undergo expensive procedures when cheaper ones are just as effective? What do Da Vinci, Mary Shelley, and contemporary Egyptian archaeologists have in common? And what does it really feel like to touch your own heart, or to have someone else’s beating inside your chest?
Rob Dunn’s fascinating history of our hearts brings us deep inside the science, history, and stories of the four chambers we depend on most.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty:

The Sellout is the first book by an American author to win the UK’s prestigious Man Booker Prize.
A biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality – the black Chinese restaurant.

You don’t have to say you love me by Sherman Alexie

Family relationships are never simple. But Sherman Alexie’s bond with his mother Lillian was more complex than most. She plunged her family into chaos with a drinking habit, but shed her addiction when it was on the brink of costing her everything. She survived a violent past, but created an elaborate facade to hide the truth. She selflessly cared for strangers, but was often incapable of showering her children with the affection that they so desperately craved. She wanted a better life for her son, but it was only by leaving her behind that he could hope to achieve it. It’s these contradictions that made Lillian Alexie a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated, and very human woman.
When she passed away, the incongruities that defined his mother shook Sherman and his remembrance of her. Grappling with the haunting ghosts of the past in the wake of loss, he responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is a stunning memoir filled with raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine, much less survive. An unflinching and unforgettable remembrance, YOU DON’T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME is a powerful, deeply felt account of a complicated relationship.

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Time to vote for our next 3 books July 4, 2017

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 9:24 pm

Here are the nominated books. When you have decided which to choose go to Survey Monkey at the following link to vote.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/F3XF9J5

The Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea
The Nix by Nathan hill
To the bright edge of the world by eowyn Ivey
Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin
All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr
Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett
Dispatches by Michael Herr
Pass the Butterworms by Tim Cahill

The Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

When Rajaa Alsanea boldly chose to open up the hidden world of Saudi women—their private lives and their conflicts with the traditions of their culture—she caused a sensation across the Arab world. Now in English, Alsanea’s tale of the personal struggles of four young upper-class women offers Westerners an unprecedented glimpse into a society often veiled from view. Living in restrictive Riyadh but traveling all over the globe, these modern Saudi women literally and figuratively shed traditional garb as they search for love, fulfillment, and their place somewhere in between Western society and their Islamic home.

The Nix by Nathan hill
The Nix is a surprising novel that you didn’t know you were waiting for until you start reading. At its center is Samuel Andresen-Anderson, a failed writer and increasingly apathetic college professor, who gets a second chance at literary fame from the most unlikely source—the mother who abandoned him as a child. The American public is up in arms about a rather absurd crime that Samuel’s mother committed against an obnoxious politician. While Sam is shocked and surprised to learn the whereabouts of his estranged mother, he also realizes it’s the chance of a lifetime to tap into the zeitgeist with some choice tidbits about her, if he can write it before media A.D.D. sets in. But in order to write the book that will revive him, Samuel is forced to dig into her life, and he discovers a completely different version of the woman he thought he knew; it turns out he’s not the only one who’s life is carved out of traumatic events. Nathan Hill is incredibly perceptive, as in this, which I can’t stop thinking about: “The things we love the most are the most disfiguring. Such is our greed for them.” Hill has created a brilliant junction of mother-son saga and comic satire about our self-righteous and obsessive society. This is a big, clever novel that wraps itself around you until you never want to leave.

To the bright edge of the world by eowyn Ivey
I’m just going to say it: Eowyn Ivey can really write. For those who read The Snow Child this statement comes as no surprise. In To the Bright Edge of the World, her second novel, Ivey manages to turn an adventure set in Alaska into much more. The book begins with a contemporary relative donating to a small museum the journals and other artifacts from an 1885 expedition. The journals were written by his great-uncle, Colonel Alan Forrester, and his great-aunt, Sophie. While we read about Alan’s accounts of his full-on Alaskan adventure, we are also introduced to Sophie’s struggles back in Vancouver. Each experiences a shift in the prism through which they see reality—Sophie takes up photography, and Alan begins to develop a more wild view of the world around him. Read it for the adventure. Read it for the time you’ll spend thinking about it long after you’ve turned the last page.

Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin
After his mother’s death, eleven-year-old Marcus is sent to live on a small South Carolina island with his great aunt, a reclusive painter with a haunted past. Aunt Charlotte, otherwise a woman of few words, points out a ruined cottage, telling Marcus she had visited it regularly after she’d moved there thirty years ago because it matched the ruin of her own life. Eventually she was inspired to take up painting so she could capture its utter desolation.
The islanders call it “Grief Cottage,” because a boy and his parents disappeared from it during a hurricane fifty years before. Their bodies were never found and the cottage has stood empty ever since. During his lonely hours while Aunt Charlotte is in her studio painting and keeping her demons at bay, Marcus visits the cottage daily, building up his courage by coming ever closer, even after the ghost of the boy who died seems to reveal himself. Full of curiosity and open to the unfamiliar and uncanny given the recent upending of his life, he courts the ghost boy, never certain whether the ghost is friendly or follows some sinister agenda.

All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a talented woman artist who goes in search of her missing father on a remote island in northern Quebec.  Setting out with her lover and another young couple, she soon finds herself captivated by the isolated setting, where a marriage begins to fall apart, violence and death lurk just beneath the surface, and sex becomes a catalyst for conflict and dangerous choices.  Surfacing is a work permeated with an aura of suspense, complex with layered meanings, and written in brilliant, diamond-sharp prose.  Here is a rich mine of ideas from an extraordinary writer about contemporary life and nature, families and marriage, and about women fragmented…and becoming whole.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates 
Readers of his work in The Atlantic and elsewhere know Ta-Nehisi Coates for his thoughtful and influential writing on race in America. Written as a series of letters to his teenaged son, his new memoir, Between the World and Me, walks us through the course of his life, from the tough neighborhoods of Baltimore in his youth, to Howard University—which Coates dubs “The Mecca” for its revelatory community of black students and teachers—to the broader Meccas of New York and Paris. Coates describes his observations and the evolution of his thinking on race, from Malcolm X to his conclusion that race itself is a fabrication, elemental to the concept of American (white) exceptionalism. Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, and South Carolina are not bumps on the road of progress and harmony, but the results of a systemized, ubiquitous threat to “black bodies” in the form of slavery, police brutality, and mass incarceration. Coates is direct and, as usual, uncommonly insightful and original. There are no wasted words. This is a powerful and exceptional book.

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett
Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing mysteries with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt’s Possession.
Nine months after the death of his beloved wife Amanda left him shattered, Peter Byerly, a young antiquarian bookseller, relocates from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to outrun his grief and rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, he discovers a Victorian watercolor of a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Amanda.
Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins and braves a host of dangers to follow a trail of clues back across the centuries—all the way to Shakespeare’s time and a priceless literary artifact that could prove, once and for all, the truth about the Bard’s real identity.

Dispatches by Michael Herr
Written on the front lines in Vietnam, Dispatches became an immediate classic of war reportage when it was published in 1977.
From its terrifying opening pages to its final eloquent words, Dispatches makes us see, in unforgettable and unflinching detail, the chaos and fervor of the war and the surreal insanity of life in that singular combat zone. Michael Herr’s unsparing, unorthodox retellings of the day-to-day events in Vietnam take on the force of poetry, rendering clarity from one of the most incomprehensible and nightmarish events of our time.
Dispatches is among the most blistering and compassionate accounts of war in our literature.

Pass the Butterworms by Tim Cahill
In Pass the Butterworms, Cahill takes us to the steppes of Mongolia, where he spends weeks on horseback alongside the descendants of Genghis Khan and masters the “Mongolian death trot”; to the North Pole, where he goes for a pleasure dip in the 36-degree water; to Irian Jaya New Guinea, where he spends a companionable evening with members of one of the last head-hunting tribes. Whether observing family values among the Stone Age Dani people, or sampling delicacies like sautéed sago beetle and premasticated manioc beer, Cahill is a fount of arcane information and a master of self-deprecating humor.

 

Time to vote for new books February 25, 2017

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 12:04 am

Please go to this link and vote before next weeks book club. Thanks!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WLV9T3X

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Does the world need yet another novel about WWII? It does when the novel is as inventive and beautiful as this one by Anthony Doerr. In fact, All the Light We Cannot See–while set mostly in Germany and France before and during the war–is not really a “war novel”. Yes, there is fear and fighting and disappearance and death, but the author’s focus is on the interior lives of his two characters. Marie Laure is a blind 14-year-old French girl who flees to the countryside when her father disappears from Nazi-occupied Paris. Werner is a gadget-obsessed German orphan whose skills admit him to a brutal branch of Hitler Youth. Never mind that their paths don’t cross until very late in the novel, this is not a book you read for plot (although there is a wonderful, mysterious subplot about a stolen gem). This is a book you read for the beauty of Doerr’s writing– “Abyss in her gut, desert in her throat, Marie-Laure takes one of the cans of food…”–and for the way he understands and cherishes the magical obsessions of childhood. Marie Laure and Werner are never quaint or twee. Instead they are powerful examples of the way average people in trying times must decide daily between morality and survival.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

Inferno: A Doctor’s Ebola Story by Steven Hatch

Dr. Steven Hatch first came to Liberia in November 2013, to work at a hospital in Monrovia. Six months later, several of the physicians Dr. Hatch had mentored and served with were dead or barely clinging to life, and Ebola had become a world health emergency. Hundreds of victims perished each week; whole families were destroyed in a matter of days; so many died so quickly that the culturally taboo practice of cremation had to be instituted to dispose of the bodies. With little help from the international community and a population ravaged by disease and fear, the war-torn African nation was simply unprepared to deal with the catastrophe.

A physician’s memoir about the ravages of a terrible disease and the small hospital that fought to contain it, Inferno is also an explanation of the science and biology of Ebola: how it is transmitted and spreads with such ferocity. And as Dr. Hatch notes, while Ebola is temporarily under control, it will inevitably re-emerge―as will other plagues, notably the Zika virus, which the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency. Inferno is a glimpse into the white-hot center of a crisis that will come again.

 It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

It Can’t Happen Here is the only one of Sinclair Lewis’s later novels to match the power of Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith. A cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America.

Written during the Great Depression, when the country was largely oblivious to Hitler’s aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press.

Called “a message to thinking Americans” by the Springfield Republican when it was published in 1935, It Can’t Happen Here is a shockingly prescient novel that remains as fresh and contemporary as today’s news.

I Will Find You:  A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her by Joanna Connors

When Joanna Connors was thirty years old on assignment for the Cleveland Plain Dealer to review a play at a college theater, she was held at knife point and raped by a stranger who had grown up five miles away from her. Once her assailant was caught and sentenced, Joanna never spoke of the trauma again, until 21 years later when her daughter was about to go to college. She resolved then to tell her children about her own rape so they could learn and protect themselves, and she began to realize that the man who assaulted her was one of the formative people in her life.

Setting out to uncover the story of her attacker, Connors embarked on a journey to find out who he was, where he came from, who his friends were and what his life was like. What she discovers stretches beyond one violent man’s story and back into her own, interweaving a narrative about strength and survival with one about rape culture and violence in America.

I Will Find You is a brave, timely consideration of race, class, education and the families that shape who we become, by a reporter and a survivor.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson

When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.

In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments—the ones we want to pretend never happened—are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.

Mary McGrory:  The First Queen of Journalism

“There’s no shortage of trenchant and witty takes on Donald Trump stuffing his golden feet in his mouth as Hillary Clinton trudges toward her likely victory. But if Mary McGrory were still here, I bet she would reign above the din. Born shortly before women gained the right to vote, she became one of the nation’s most widely syndicated columnists….best remembered for peerlessly capturing the essence of political animals over half a century of opinion writing… she did write about [Trump’s] family in 1990. ‘The defense budget is the closest we come to the sums being talked of in the divorce settlement between Ivana and Donald,’ McGrory said of the Republican nominee’s first divorce. ‘Watching the Trumps, Washington thinks of itself as wholesome.’”

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City’s Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation by Brad Ricca

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes tells the true story of Mrs. Grace Humiston, the detective and lawyer who turned her back on New York society life to become one of the nation’s greatest crime fighters during an era when women weren’t even allowed to vote. After graduating from N.Y.U. law school, Grace opened a legal clinic in the city for low-income immigrant clients, and quickly established a reputation as a fierce, but fair lawyer who was always on the side of the disenfranchised.
Grace’s motto “Justice for those of limited means” led her to strange cases all over the city, and eventually the world. From defending an innocent giant on death row to investigating an island in Arkansas with a terrible secret about slavery; from the warring halls of Congress to a crumbling medieval tower in Italy, Grace solved crimes in-between shopping at Bergdorf Goodman and being marked for death by the sinister Black Hand. She defended a young wife who shot her would-be rapist and fought the framing of a Baltimore black man at the mercy of a corrupt police department. Known for dressing only in black, Grace was appointed the first woman U.S. district attorney in history. And when a pretty 18-year-old girl named Ruth Cruger went missing on Valentine’s Day in New York, Grace took the case after  the police gave up. Grace and her partner, the hard-boiled Hungarian detective Julius J. Kron, navigated a dangerous mystery of secret boyfriends, two-faced cops,underground tunnels, rumors of white slavery, and a mysterious pale man– in a desperate race against time to save Ruth. When she solved the crime, she was made the first female consulting detective to the NYPD.
But despite her many successes in social and criminal justice, Grace began to see chilling connections in the cases she had solved, leading to a final showdown with her most fearsome adversary of all and one of the most powerful men of the twentieth century.
This is the first-ever literary biography of the singular woman the press nicknamed after fiction’s greatest detective. In the narrative tradition of In Cold Blood and The Devil in the White City, her poignant story unmasks unmistakable connections between missing girls,the role of the media, and the real truth of crime stories. The great mystery of Mrs. Sherlock Holmes — and its haunting twist ending — is how could one woman with so much power disappear so completely?

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder

A New York Times bestseller: “[Red Notice] does for investing in Russia and the former Soviet Union what Liar’s Poker did for our understanding of Salomon Brothers, Wall Street, and the mortgage-backed securities business in the 1980s. Browder’s business saga meshes well with the story of corruption and murder in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, making Red Notice an early candidate for any list of the year’s best books” (Fortune).

This is a story about an accidental activist. Bill Browder started out his adult life as the Wall Street maverick whose instincts led him to Russia just after the breakup of the Soviet Union, where he made his fortune.

Along the way he exposed corruption, and when he did, he barely escaped with his life. His Russian lawyer wasn’t so lucky: he ended up in jail, where he was tortured to death. That changed Browder forever. He saw the murderous heart of the Putin regime and has spent the last half decade on a campaign to expose it. Because of that, he became Putin’s number one enemy, especially after Browder succeeded in having a law passed in the United States that punishes a list of Russians implicated in the lawyer’s murder. Putin famously retaliated with a law that bans Americans from adopting Russian orphans.

A financial caper, a crime thriller, and a political crusade, Red Notice is the story of one man taking on overpowering odds to change the world, and also the story of how, without intending to, he found meaning in his life.

The all of it by Jeannette Haien

Soaked by a miserable rain, Father Declan de Lowry swats midges and unsuccessfully casts for salmon while mulling the deathbed confession of a parishioner from the tiny Irish village of Roonatellin. The good priest is frantic to know why Kevin Dennehy refused to the end to marry Enda, who lived as his wife for decades with none suspecting their sin. When pressed, Kevin would only say, “there’s some explanations that get you nowhere.” That leaves it to Enda, an Irish Scheherazade, to breathlessly tell Father “the all of it,” a wild, eyebrow-raising tale that meanders like sheep on the narrow roads. Her enthusiasm and Jeannette Haien’s musical, evocative phrasing sweep this winning, humorous novel along. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

What if? : Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Monroe

Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following.

Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?

In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, complemented by signature xkcd comics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion.

The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with updated and expanded versions of the most popular answers from the xkcd website. What If? will be required reading for xkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air is a powerful look at a stage IV lung cancer diagnosis through the eyes of a neurosurgeon. When Paul Kalanithi is given his diagnosis he is forced to see this disease, and the process of being sick, as a patient rather than a doctor–the result of his experience is not just a look at what living is and how it works from a scientific perspective, but the ins and outs of what makes life matter. This heart-wrenching book will capture you from page one and still have you thinking long after the final sentence.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

Why not Me? by Mindy Kaling

In Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling has solidified her position as “most valuable friend.” Just like Mindy, these essays are exuberantly funny, deeply introspective and refreshingly thoughtful. From her relationship with BJ Novak and the guy who worked for the president, to creating her TV show and announcing the Emmy nominations, Mindy’s just-between-us-friends approach makes you love her just a little bit more after each story, and you’ll even question if Mindy is your soup snake. By all conventional measures Mindy Kaling should not be where she is, and that is the beauty of the stories she shares—“Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled.” Accessible and empowering, Why Not Me? makes you want to stand up and shout, “Why not me, too?”

Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation by Alan Burdick

“Burdick is like a charming and witty river guide, exploring the tributaries and side-streams along the river of consciousness—the science, the history, the literature, the deep and beautiful paradoxes that make us what we are. Why Time Flies will enhance your experience of what may be, in the end, the most intimate relationship of your liþ—your connection with the passage of time.”

 

Time to Vote for new books October 21, 2016

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 10:44 pm

Please vote by Wednesday September 26th and I can let you all know the next book at book club on the 27th.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/D3M5H5F

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

Dispatches by Michael Herr

The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend by Bob Drury

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Man called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Oreo by Fran Ross

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Subject 375 by Nikki Owen

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates 

Readers of his work in The Atlantic and elsewhere know Ta-Nehisi Coates for his thoughtful and influential writing on race in America. Written as a series of letters to his teenaged son, his new memoir, Between the World and Me, walks us through the course of his life, from the tough neighborhoods of Baltimore in his youth, to Howard University—which Coates dubs “The Mecca” for its revelatory community of black students and teachers—to the broader Meccas of New York and Paris. Coates describes his observations and the evolution of his thinking on race, from Malcolm X to his conclusion that race itself is a fabrication, elemental to the concept of American (white) exceptionalism. Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, and South Carolina are not bumps on the road of progress and harmony, but the results of a systemized, ubiquitous threat to “black bodies” in the form of slavery, police brutality, and mass incarceration. Coates is direct and, as usual, uncommonly insightful and original. There are no wasted words. This is a powerful and exceptional book.–Jon Foro

The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald

Booker Prize-winner Fitzgerald ( Offshore ; Innocence ) reveals here the depth of a distinct and imaginative talent to amuse. Set in Moscow in the spring of 1913, the story concerns an English household that has fallen apart with the unexpected flight of Nellie Reid, a good and proper wife and heretofore devoted mother of three young children. (Fitzgerald is especially good at very droll children.) Nellie’s husband, Frank, must carry on with his family and printing business while holding out hope for her return. A mysterious young woman from the countryside–she may be a dryad–is engaged to care for the children, and the plot, such as it is, takes many unexpected turns. But one doesn’t read Fitzgerald for plot structure so much as for her sheer powers of invention: her novel raises more questions than it means to answer. Rich in subtle characterizations, wit and wonderfully textured prose, Fitzgerald’s seventh novel succeeds in evoking the very essence of life one long-ago spring at 22 Lipka Street.

The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing

George Stroud is a hard-drinking, tough-talking, none-too-scrupulous writer for a New York media conglomerate that bears a striking resemblance to Time, Inc. in the heyday of Henry Luce. One day, before heading home to his wife in the suburbs, Stroud has a drink with Pauline, the beautiful girlfriend of his boss, Earl Janoth. Things happen. The next day Stroud escorts Pauline home, leaving her off at the corner just as Janoth returns from a trip. The day after that, Pauline is found murdered in her apartment.

Janoth knows there was one witness to his entry into Pauline’s apartment on the night of the murder; he knows that man must have been the man Pauline was with before he got back; but he doesn’t know who he was. Janoth badly wants to get his hands on that man, and he picks one of his most trusted employees to track him down: George Stroud, who else?

How does a man escape from himself? No book has ever dramatized that question to more perfect effect than The Big Clock, a masterpiece of American noir.

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing mysteries with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt’s Possession.

Nine months after the death of his beloved wife Amanda left him shattered, Peter Byerly, a young antiquarian bookseller, relocates from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to outrun his grief and rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, he discovers a Victorian watercolor of a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Amanda.

Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins and braves a host of dangers to follow a trail of clues back across the centuries—all the way to Shakespeare’s time and a priceless literary artifact that could prove, once and for all, the truth about the Bard’s real identity.

Dispatches by Michael Herr

Written on the front lines in Vietnam, Dispatches became an immediate classic of war reportage when it was published in 1977.

From its terrifying opening pages to its final eloquent words, Dispatches makes us see, in unforgettable and unflinching detail, the chaos and fervor of the war and the surreal insanity of life in that singular combat zone. Michael Herr’s unsparing, unorthodox retellings of the day-to-day events in Vietnam take on the force of poetry, rendering clarity from one of the most incomprehensible and nightmarish events of our time.

Dispatches is among the most blistering and compassionate accounts of war in our literature.

The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend

by Bob Drury

For all of our culture’s fascination with the American Indian, it’s almost impossible to believe that one of the most well-known Indians of his time, the Oglala Sioux warrior chief Red Cloud, could be largely forgotten until now. Yet that’s exactly what we discover in this illuminating account by Drury and Clavin (Halsey’s Typhoon). As the de facto leader of the Western Sioux nation—an unprecedented feat in itself given the Sioux’s rigorous individualism and a culture consisted of fluid, haphazard tribal groups—Red Cloud and his army stand alone in history as the only Indians to ever defeat the United States in a war, which took all of two years (1866–1868). A history inconveniently at odds with the accepted American narrative, the manuscript for Red Cloud’s 1893 autobiography lay in a drawer at the Nebraska State Historical Society into the 1990s. Thanks to that work and the authors&’ extensive, additional scholarship, readers now have access to a much more thorough, comprehensive understanding of the Plains Indians&’ brutal and tragically futile efforts to protect their land and way of living from the progress of civilization.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class through the author’s own story of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town.

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of poor, white Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for over forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. In HillbillyElegy, J.D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck.

The Vance family story began with hope in postwar America. J.D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history….Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor,” and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known-and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself-to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed-and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends? The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler’s dark reign-and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages.Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions-and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad’s ancient powers-one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. Elizabeth Kostova’s debut novel is an adventure of monumental proportions, a relentless tale that blends fact and fantasy, history and the present, with an assurance that is almost unbearably suspenseful-and utterly unforgettable.

Man called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others. “If there was an award for ‘Most Charming Book of the Year,’ this first novel by a Swedish blogger-turned-overnight-sensation would win hands down”

Oreo by Fran Ross

Oreo is raised by her maternal grandparents in Philadelphia. Her black mother tours with a theatrical troupe, and her Jewish deadbeat dad disappeared when she was an infant, leaving behind a mysterious note that triggers her quest to find him. What ensues is a playful, modernized parody of the classical odyssey of Theseus with a feminist twist, immersed in seventies pop culture, and mixing standard English, black vernacular, and Yiddish with wisecracking aplomb. Oreo, our young hero, navigates the labyrinth of sound studios and brothels and subway tunnels in Manhattan, seeking to claim her birthright while unwittingly experiencing and triggering a mythic journey of self-discovery like no other.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

Subject 375 by Nikki Owen

What to believe. Who to betray. When to run.

Plastic surgeon Dr. Maria Martinez has Asperger’s. Convicted of killing a priest, she is alone in prison and has no memory of the murder. DNA evidence places Maria at the scene of the crime, yet she claims she’s innocent. Then she starts to remember …
A strange room. Strange people. Being watched.
As Maria gets closer to the truth, she is drawn into a web of international intrigue and must fight not only to clear her name but to remain alive.

With a protagonist as original as The Bridge‘s Saga Norén, part one in the Project trilogy is as addictive as the Bourne novels.

 

Time to vote for new books July 3, 2016

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 8:13 pm

Sorry I am a little behind with this but here are the picks for summer and fall. If you can all go to the survey monkey link in the next week I will get the picks out to you quickly.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Q29N67M

Blessed: a history of the American prosperity gospel by Kate Bowler
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage
Gene by siddhartha mukhergee
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief” by Lawrence Wright
A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage
A House in the Sky by Amanda Linkhout and Sara Corbett
Kindred by Octavia Butler
The Monopolists by Mary Pilon
On Looking: A walker’s guide to the art of observation by Alexandra Horowitz
Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre
Paper: Paging through History by Mark Kurlansky
Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And other lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
A thousand naked strangers by Kevin hazard
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Blessed: a history of the American prosperity gospel by Kate Bowler

The most controversial aspect of the so-called prosperity gospel is “its radical claim to transform invisible faith into financial rewards.” Poverty and illness are signs of spiritual malaise, for God wants us to be wealthy, healthy, and live to our full potential in victory here on earth. Preached by Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, and others, the prosperity gospel teaches that Jesus’ death and resurrection overcame not only sin and death but also poverty and disease. Believers, therefore, may claim wealth and health as part of their divine inheritance. Bowler argues the allure is actually optimism, not financial success. The message of the prosperity gospel channels America’s can-do spirit and its belief that the future can be changed for the better through hard work. Her book is an important account of an audacious contemporary religious phenomenon, albeit one that scandalizes many. It also serves as an invitation to reflect upon the relationship of religion and money.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

“ A National Book Award’s Loneliest selections and NYT bestseller, this story set in war-torn Chechnya deals with the transcendent power of love. Eight-year-old Havaa hides in the woods after watching men take her father and burn down her house. Ahmed, a neighbor, takes her to an abandoned hospital where he feels she will be safe with the last remaining doctor, a gifted surgeon named Sonja. Over the next five days, the lives of the three characters connect in astounding ways in this amazing tour de force.”

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Computer expert Randy Waterhouse spearheads a movement to create a safe haven for data in a world where information equals power and big business and government seek to control the flow of knowledge. His ambitions collide with a top-secret conspiracy with links to the encryption wars of World War II and his grandfather’s work in preventing the Nazis from discovering that the Allies had cracked their supposedly unbreakable Enigma code. The author of Snow Crash (LJ 4/1/92) focuses his eclectic vision on a story of epic proportions, encompassing both the beginnings of information technology in the 1940s and the blossoming of the present cybertech revolution. Stephenson’s freewheeling prose and ironic voice lend a sense of familiarity to a story that transcends the genre and demands a wide readership among fans of technothrillers as well as a general audience. Highly recommended.
An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage

More than simply sustenance, food historically has been a kind of technology, changing the course of human progress by helping to build empires, promote industrialization, and decide the outcomes of wars. Tom Standage draws on archaeology, anthropology, and economics to reveal how food has helped shape and transform societies around the world, from the emergence of farming in China by 7500 b.c. to the use of sugar cane and corn to make ethanol today. An Edible History of Humanity is a fully satisfying account of human history.
Gene by siddhartha mukhergee

In 2010, Siddhartha Mukherjee was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his book The Emperor of All Maladies, a “biography” of cancer. Here, he follows up with a biography of the gene—and The Gene is just as informative, wise, and well-written as that first book. Mukherjee opens with a survey of how the gene first came to be conceptualized and understood, taking us through the thoughts of Aristotle, Darwin, Mendel, Thomas Morgan, and others; he finishes the section with a look at the case of Carrie Buck (to whom the book is dedicated), who eventually was sterilized in 1927 in a famous American eugenics case. Carrie Buck’s sterilization comes as a warning that informs the rest of the book. This is what can happen when we start tinkering with this most personal science and misunderstand the ethical implications of those tinkerings. Through the rest of The Gene, Mukherjee clearly and skillfully illustrates how the science has grown so much more advanced and complicated since the 1920s—we are developing the capacity to directly manipulate the human genome—and how the ethical questions have also grown much more complicated. We could ask for no wiser, more fascinating and talented writer to guide us into the future of our human heredity than Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief” by Lawrence Wright

“National Book award Finalist Lawrence Wright offers a balanced and thorough account of an extremely secretive religion. Through massive research that included over 200 interviews with current and former Scientologists, the author reveals the secret workings of the organization. He provides a portrait of L. Ron Hubbard, its founder, and his successor David Miscavige, as well as an explanation of the religion’s special language and rituals. This compelling book covers everything, from Scientology’s incredible riches to celebrity followers such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.”
A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage

Starred Review. Standage starts with a bold hypothesis—that each epoch, from the Stone Age to the present, has had its signature beverage—and takes readers on an extraordinary trip through world history. The Economist’s technology editor has the ability to connect the smallest detail to the big picture and a knack for summarizing vast concepts in a few sentences. He explains how, when humans shifted from hunting and gathering to farming, they saved surplus grain, which sometimes fermented into beer. The Greeks took grapes and made wine, later borrowed by the Romans and the Christians. Arabic scientists experimented with distillation and produced spirits, the ideal drink for long voyages of exploration. Coffee also spread quickly from Arabia to Europe, becoming the “intellectual counterpoint to the geographical expansion of the Age of Exploration.” European coffee-houses, which functioned as “the Internet of the Age of Reason,” facilitated scientific, financial and industrial cross-fertilization. In the British industrial revolution that followed, tea “was the lubricant that kept the factories running smoothly.” Finally, the rise of American capitalism is mirrored in the history of Coca-Cola, which started as a more or less handmade medicinal drink but morphed into a mass-produced global commodity over the course of the 20th century. In and around these grand ideas, Standage tucks some wonderful tidbits—on the antibacterial qualities of tea, Mecca’s coffee trials in 1511,

A House in the Sky by Amanda Linkhout and Sara Corbett

“Growing up in a violent home, the author dreamed of traveling far away. As a waitress in Canada, she saved her money in order to backpack around the world. After traveling through Latin America and India, she continued on to Syria and Afghanistan, where she began working as a television reporter. Then in August 2008, she was to Somalia with a former lover, and they were kidnapped by a group of men. Held captive for over a year, they converted to Islam in order to survive, and face countless challenges before ultimately escaping. Her story is elegantly written, wrenching yet redemptive.”
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

“This incredibly original novel features a woman named Ursula Todd who, throughout the course of her life, dies and is reborn over and over again, from 1910 through World War II. The daughter of a British banker and his wife, Ursula suffers a variety of demises, from crib death to drowning to being beaten to death by a brutal husband; but every time she is reincarnated, she returns as herself. The book explores the many turns that any individual life could take, given a slightly altered circumstance or two. It’s a thought-provoking story that makes a wonderful book club choice.”

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

The Monopolists by Mary Pilon

The Monopolists reveals the unknown story of how Monopoly came into existence, the reinvention of its history by Parker Brothers and multiple media outlets, the lost female originator of the game, and one man’s lifelong obsession to tell the true story about the game’s questionable origins.

Most think it was invented by an unemployed Pennsylvanian who sold his game to Parker Brothers during the Great Depression in 1935 and lived happily–and richly–ever after. That story, however, is not exactly true. Ralph Anspach, a professor fighting to sell his Anti-Monopoly board game decades later, unearthed the real story, which traces back to Abraham Lincoln, the Quakers, and a forgotten feminist named Lizzie Magie who invented her nearly identical Landlord’s Game more than thirty years before Parker Brothers sold their version of Monopoly. Her game–underpinned by morals that were the exact opposite of what Monopoly represents today–was embraced by a constellation of left-wingers from the Progressive Era through the Great Depression, including members of Franklin Roosevelt’s famed Brain Trust.

A gripping social history of corporate greed that illuminates the cutthroat nature of American business over the last century, The Monopolists reads like the best detective fiction, told through Monopoly’s real-life winners and losers.

On Looking: A walker’s guide to the art of observation by Alexandra Horowitz

It is charming to take a walk with Horowitz. Engaging, amusing, and relatable, the psychology professor guides readers through 11 urban walks in the company of various experts. Beyond simply looking, this is about what makes up the world around us and the foundations of human perception. Horowitz brings the same attention to the human brain as she brought to our canine companions in Inside of a Dog (2010). She makes cognitive functioning eminently understandable by unraveling the role expectation plays in limiting what we see. The experts she walks with, from scientists to a toddler and a dog, reveal the underpinnings of a wide range of urban phenomena, such as the uncanny ability of rats to avoid traps. The descriptions of the walks are detailed but not overlong, with just enough information to give a taste of a geologist’s or typographer’s expertise. Even when relying only on your own inexpert eyes, you will look at the world with more attention after reading these fascinating essays, though it’s likely you still won’t be able to find millennia-old worm tracks or recognize the fishlike behavior of pedestrians.

Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre

London Times writer-at-large Macintyre (Agent Zigzag) offers a solid and entertaining updating of WWII’s best-known human intelligence operation. In 1943, British intelligence conceived a spectacular con trick to draw German attention away from the Allies’ obvious next objective, Sicily. The bait was a briefcase full of carefully forged documents attached to the wrist of Major William Martin, Royal Marines—a fictitious identity given to a body floated ashore in neutral Spain. Making the deception plausible was the task given to two highly unconventional officers: Lt. Comdr. Ewen Montagu and Squadron Leader Charles Cholmondeley. Macintyre recounts their adventures and misadventures with panache. The body was that of a derelict. Its costuming included the underwear of a deceased Oxford don. An attractive secretary provided the photo of an imaginary fiancée. The carefully constructed documents setting up the bogus operation against Greece and Sardinia convinced even Hitler himself. The Sicily landings were achieved as almost a complete surprise. And the man who never was entered the history and folklore of WWII.

Paper: Paging through History by Mark Kurlansky

Paper is one of the simplest and most essential pieces of human technology. For the past two millennia, the ability to produce it in ever more efficient ways has supported the proliferation of literacy, media, religion, education, commerce, and art; it has formed the foundation of civilizations, promoting revolutions and restoring stability. One has only to look at history’s greatest press run, which produced 6.5 billion copies of Máo zhuxí yulu, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung (Zedong)―which doesn’t include editions in 37 foreign languages and in braille―to appreciate the range and influence of a single publication, in paper. Or take the fact that one of history’s most revered artists, Leonardo da Vinci, left behind only 15 paintings but 4,000 works on paper. And though the colonies were at the time calling for a boycott of all British goods, the one exception they made speaks to the essentiality of the material; they penned the Declaration of Independence on British paper.

Now, amid discussion of “going paperless”―and as speculation about the effects of a digitally dependent society grows rampant―we’ve come to a world-historic juncture. Thousands of years ago, Socrates and Plato warned that written language would be the end of “true knowledge,” replacing the need to exercise memory and think through complex questions. Similar arguments were made about the switch from handwritten to printed books, and today about the role of computer technology. By tracing paper’s evolution from antiquity to the present, with an emphasis on the contributions made in Asia and the Middle East, Mark Kurlansky challenges common assumptions about technology’s influence, affirming that paper is here to stay. Paper will be the commodity history that guides us forward in the twenty-first century and illuminates our times.

Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett

The elegant short fictions gathered hereabout the love of science and the science of love are often set against the backdrop of the nineteenth century. Interweaving historical and fictional characters, they encompass both past and present as they negotiate the complex territory of ambition, failure, achievement, and shattered dreams. In “Ship Fever,” the title novella, a young Canadian doctor finds himself at the center of one of history’s most tragic epidemics. In “The English Pupil,” Linnaeus, in old age, watches as the world he organized within his head slowly drifts beyond his reach. And in “The Littoral Zone,” two marine biologists wonder whether their life-altering affair finally was worth it. In the tradition of Alice Munro and William Trevor, these exquisitely rendered fictions encompass whole lives in a brief space. As they move between interior and exterior journeys, “science is transformed from hard and known fact into malleable, strange and thrilling fictional material”

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And other lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty―a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre―took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of
cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.

Her eye-opening, candid, and often hilarious story is like going on a journey with your bravest friend to the cemetery at midnight. She demystifies death, leading us behind the black curtain of her unique profession. And she answers questions you didn’t know you had: Can you catch a disease from a corpse? How many dead bodies can you fit in a Dodge van? What exactly does a flaming skull look like?

Honest and heartfelt, self-deprecating and ironic, Caitlin’s engaging style makes this otherwise taboo topic both approachable and engrossing. Now a licensed mortician with an alternative funeral practice, Caitlin argues that our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead).

Surfacing by Margaret Atwood

Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a talented woman artist who goes in search of her missing father on a remote island in northern Quebec. Setting out with her lover and another young couple, she soon finds herself captivated by the isolated setting, where a marriage begins to fall apart, violence and death lurk just beneath the surface, and sex becomes a catalyst for conflict and dangerous choices. Surfacing is a work permeated with an aura of suspense, complex with layered meanings, and written in brilliant, diamond-sharp prose. Here is a rich mine of ideas from an extraordinary writer about contemporary life and nature, families and marriage, and about women fragmented…and becoming whole.
A thousand naked strangers by Kevin hazard

former paramedic’s visceral, poignant, and mordantly funny account of a decade spent on Atlanta’s mean streets saving lives and connecting with the drama and occasional beauty that lies inside catastrophe.

In the aftermath of 9/11 Kevin Hazzard felt that something was missing from his life—his days were too safe, too routine. A failed salesman turned local reporter, he wanted to test himself, see how he might respond to pressure and danger. He signed up for emergency medical training and became, at age twenty-six, a newly minted EMT running calls in the worst sections of Atlanta. His life entered a different realm—one of blood, violence, and amazing grace.

Thoroughly intimidated at first and frequently terrified, he experienced on a nightly basis the adrenaline rush of walking into chaos. But in his downtime, Kevin reflected on how people’s facades drop away when catastrophe strikes. As his hours on the job piled up, he realized he was beginning to see into the truth of things. There is no pretense five beats into a chest compression, or in an alley next to a crack den, or on a dimly lit highway where cars have collided. Eventually, what had at first seemed impossible happened: Kevin acquired mastery. And in the process he was able to discern the professional differences between his freewheeling peers, what marked each—as he termed them—as “a tourist,” “true believer,” or “killer.”

Combining indelible scenes that remind us of life’s fragile beauty with laugh-out-loud moments that keep us smiling through the worst, A Thousand Naked Strangers is an absorbing read about one man’s journey of self-discovery—a trip that also teaches us about ourselves.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Mayes’s favorite guide to Northern Italy allots seven pages to the town of Cortona, where she owns a house. But here she finds considerably more to say about it than that, all of it so enchanting that an armchair traveler will find it hard to resist jumping out of the chair and following in her footsteps. The recently divorced author is euphoric about the old house in the Tuscan hills that she and her new lover renovated and now live in during summer vacations and on holidays. A poet, food-and-travel writer, Italophile and chair of the creative writing department at San Francisco State University, Mayes is a fine wordsmith and an exemplary companion whose delight in a brick floor she has just waxed is as contagious as her pleasure in the landscape, architecture and life of the village. Not the least of the charms of her book are the recipes for delicious meals she has made. Above all, her observations about being at home in two very different cultures are sharp and wise.

 

Time to Vote February 3, 2016

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 3:57 pm

I have been asked several times to pull past books for us to revote on so here are the “almost” winners from 2oo9-2010. Please go to the survey monkey link below and vote for 3 by February 13th. Thanks!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/789FVW3

 

Crazy Heart:  A Novel by Thomas Cobb

Shelter Me by Juliette Fay

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

The Forever War – Dexter Filkins

Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This Before by Jim Holt

World According to Garp by John Irving

Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

Let the World Spins by Colin McCann

The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs

Lamb in His Bosom by Caroline Miller

The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley

The Theory of Light and Matter by Andrew Porter

A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

Jamestown by Mathew Sharpe

 

 

Crazy Heart:  A Novel by Thomas Cobb

Singer and guitarist Bad Blake was once a first-rate country-and-western star, but now he’s 57, an alcoholic, a failure at four marriages, and playing in third-rate clubs. The biggest gig he can get is opening for Tommy Sweet, the kid Bad got started and whose career has now eclipsed Bad’s. Bad meets Jean Craddock when she comes to interview him and they fall in love. Her little boy, Buddy, inspires Bad to search for his own long-lost son, but there’s no happy ending there. And when Bad, hungry for a drink, loses Jean’s son, things take a downturn, despite Bad’s fling with AA. This first novel has the authentic patter and ambience of those seedy one-night-stands, but the plot is thin and the ending is very downbeat. There will be heavy promotion and advertising, so requests may warrant purchase.  

Shelter Me by Juliette Day

Four months after her husband’s death, Janie LaMarche remains undone by grief and anger. Her mourning is disrupted, however, by the unexpected arrival of a builder with a contract to add a porch onto her house. Stunned, Janie realizes the porch was meant to be a surprise from her husband—now his last gift to her.As she reluctantly allows construction to begin, Janie clings to the familiar outposts of her sorrow—mothering her two small children with fierce protectiveness, avoiding friends and family, and stewing in a rage she can’t release. Yet Janie’s self-imposed isolation is breached by a cast of unlikely interventionists: her chattering, ipecac-toting aunt; her bossy, over-manicured neighbor; her muffin-bearing cousin; and even Tug, the contractor with a private grief all his own.

As the porch takes shape, Janie discovers that the unknowable terrain of the future is best navigated with the help of others—even those we least expect to call on, much less learn to love.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram,* “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl’s fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere.

 The Forever War – Dexter Filkins

In instant classic of war reporting, The Forever War is the definitive account of America’s conflict with Islamic fundamentalism and a searing exploration of its human costs. Through the eyes of Filkins, a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, we witness the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, the aftermath of the attack on New York on September 11th, and the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Filkins is the only American journalist to have reported on all these events, and his experiences are conveyed in a riveting narrative filled with unforgettable characters and astonishing scenes. 

Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman 

In this brilliant, essential book, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas L. Friedman speaks to America’s urgent need for national renewal and explains how a green revolution can bring about both a sustainable environment and a sustainable America.

Friedman explains how global warming, rapidly growing populations, and the expansion of the world’s middle class through globalization have produced a dangerously unstable planet–one that is “hot, flat, and crowded.” In this Release 2.0 edition, he also shows how the very habits that led us to ravage the natural world led to the meltdown of the financial markets and the Great Recession. The challenge of a sustainable way of life presents the United States with an opportunity not only to rebuild its economy, but to lead the world in radically innovating toward cleaner energy. And it could inspire Americans to something we haven’t seen in a long time–nation-building in America–by summoning the intelligence, creativity, and concern for the common good that are our greatest national resources.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded is classic Thomas L. Friedman: fearless, incisive, forward-looking, and rich in surprising common sense about the challenge–and the promise–of the future.

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This Before by Jim Holt

From the best-selling author of Why Does the World Exist? comes this outrageous, uproarious compendium of absurdity, filth, racy paradox, and gratuitous  offensiveness―just the kind of mature philosophical reflection readers have come to expect from the ever-entertaining Jim Holt. Indeed, Stop Me If You’ve
Heard This
 is the first book to trace the evolution of the joke all the way from the standup comics of ancient Athens to the comedy-club Seinfelds of today. After exploring humor’s history in Part One, Holt delves into philosophy in Part Two: Wall Street jokes; jokes about rednecks and atheists, bulimics and politicians; jokes you missed if you didn’t go to a Catholic girls’ school; jokes about logic and existence itself . . . all became fodder for the grand theories of Aristotle, Kant, Freud, and Wittgenstein in this heady mix of the high and low, of the ribald and profound, from America’s most beloved philosophical pundit. 15 illustrations

World According to Garp by John Irving

This is the life and times of T. S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny
Fields–a feminist leader ahead of her times.  This is the life and death
of a famous mother and her almost-famous son; theirs is a world of sexual
extremes–even of sexual assassinations.  It is a novel rich with “lunacy
and sorrow”; yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a
comedy both ribald and robust.  In more than thirty languages, in more than
forty countries–with more than ten million copies in print–this novel
provides almost cheerful, even hilarious evidence of its famous last line:
“In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases.”

Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner

From the National Book Award Finalist and New York Times bestselling author of The Flamethrowers, an astonishingly wise, ambitious, and riveting novel set in the American community in Cuba during the years leading up to Castro’s revolution—a place that was a paradise for a time and for a few. The first novel to tell the story of the Americans who were driven out in 1958, this is a masterful debut with a unique and necessary lens into US-Cuba relations.

Young Everly Lederer and K.C. Stites come of age in Oriente Province, where the Americans tend their own fiefdom—three hundred thousand acres of United Fruit Company sugarcane that surround their gated enclave. If the rural tropics are a child’s dreamworld, Everly and K.C. nevertheless have keen eyes for the indulgences and betrayals of the grown-ups around them—the mordant drinking and illicit loves, the race hierarchies and violence.

In Havana, a thousand kilometers and a world away from the American colony, a cabaret dancer meets a French agitator named Christian de La Mazière, whose seductive demeanor can’t mask his shameful past. Together they become enmeshed in the brewing political underground. When Fidel and Raúl Castro lead a revolt from the mountains above the cane plantation, torching the sugar and kidnapping a boat full of “yanqui” revelers, K.C. and Everly begin to discover the brutality that keeps the colony humming. Though their parents remain blissfully untouched by the forces of history, the children hear the whispers of what is to come.

Kushner’s first novel is a tour de force, haunting and compelling, with the urgency of a telex from a forgotten time and place. 

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

From Dennis Lehane, New York Times bestselling author of Mystic River and Shutter Island, comes the paperback edition of The Given Day, an unflinching family epic that captures the political unrest of a nation caught between a well-patterned past and an unpredictable future. This beautifully written novel of American history tells the story of two families—one black, one white—swept up in a maelstrom of revolutionaries and anarchists, immigrants and ward bosses, Brahmins and ordinary citizens, all engaged in a battle for survival and power at the end of World War I. 

Let the World Spins by Colin McCann

In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in bestselling novelist Colum McCann’s stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people.

Let the Great World Spin is the critically acclaimed author’s most ambitious novel yet: a dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s.

The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs

From the bestselling author of The Know-It-All comes a fascinating and timely exploration of religion and the Bible. A.J. Jacobs chronicles his hilarious and thoughtful year spent obeying―as literally as possible―the tenets of the Bible.

Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to play a ten-string harp; to stone adulterers.

The resulting spiritual journey is at once funny and profound, reverent and irreverent, personal and universal and will make you see history’s most influential book with new eyes.

Jacobs’s quest transforms his life even more radically than the year spent reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica for The Know-It-All. His beard grows so unruly that he is regularly mistaken for a member of ZZ Top. He immerses himself in prayer, tends sheep in the Israeli desert, battles idolatry, and tells the absolute truth in all situations—much to his wife’s chagrin.

Throughout the book, Jacobs also embeds himself in a cross-section of communities that take the Bible literally. He tours a Kentucky-based creationist museum and sings hymns with Pennsylvania Amish. He dances with Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and does Scripture study with Jehovah’s Witnesses. He discovers ancient biblical wisdom of startling relevance. And he wrestles with seemingly archaic rules that baffle the twenty-first-century brain.

Jacobs’s extraordinary undertaking yields unexpected epiphanies and challenges. A book that will charm readers both secular and religious, The Year of Living Biblically is part Cliff Notes to the Bible, part memoir, and part look into worlds unimaginable. Thou shalt not be able to put it down. 

Lamb in His Bosom by Caroline Miller

In 1934, Caroline Miller’s novel Lamb in His Bosom won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. It was the first novel by a Georgia author to win a Pulitzer, soon followed by Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind in 1937. In fact, Lamb was largely responsible for the discovery of Gone With the Wind; after reading Miller’s novel, Macmillan editor Harold S. Latham sought other southern novels and authors, and found Margaret Mitchell.

Caroline Miller was fascinated by the other Old South not the romantic inhabitants of Gone With the Wind, but rather the poor people of the south Georgia backwoods, who never owned a slave or planned to fight a war. The story of Cean and Lonzo, a young couple who begin their married lives two decades before the Civil War, Lamb in His Bosom is a fascinating account of social customs and material realities among settlers of the Georgia frontier. At the same time, Lamb in His Bosom transcends regional history as Miller’s quietly lyrical prose style pays poignant tribute to a woman’s life lived close to nature the nature outside her and the nature within.

The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley

 Hailed as a masterpiece-the finest work yet by an American novelist of the first rank-The Man in My Basement tells the story of Charles Blakey, a young black man who can’t find a job, drinks too much, and, worst of all, stands to lose the beautiful home that has belonged to his family for generations. But Charles’s fortunes take an odd turn when a stranger offers nearly $50,000 to rent out Charles’s basement-and soon, as the boarder transforms the basement into a prison cell, Charles finds himself drawn into circumstances almost unimaginably bizarre and profoundly unsettling.

The Theory of Light and Matter by Andrew Porter 

The narrators of Porter’s Flannery O’Connor Award–winning collection tend to be young and clear-eyed beyond their years as they give voice to the secrets—family, their own—that haunt them. In the opening story, Hole, the narrator ruminates on the loss of a childhood friend and the slippery nature of guilt, memory and truth. In Storms, a young man considers his relationship with a troubled sister, who abandoned her fiancé in Spain without a passport or money. The narrator of River Dog wonders if he should or could hate his brother for the things he did to other people, and for what they did to his brother. In the title story, a young woman ponders the nature of a May/December romance. If the events and secrets of these characters’ pasts have not overtaken their lives, then their reverberations still threaten to corrupt the years yet to come. Throughout, Porter shows how love and pain often come hand in hand.

A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

At an inn in the Berkshire Mountains, seven former schoolmates gather to celebrate a wedding–a reunion that becomes the occasion of astonishing revelations as the friends collectively recall a long-ago night that indelibly marked each of their lives. Written with the fluent narrative artistry that distinguishes all of Anita Shreve’s bestselling novels, A Wedding in December acutely probes the mysteries of the human heart and the endless allure of paths not taken. 

Jamestown by Mathew Sharpe

 A group of “settlers” (more like survivors) arrive in Virginia from the ravished island of Manhattan, intending to establish an outpost, find oil, and exploit the Indians controlling the area. But nothing goes quite as planned (one settler, for instance, keeps losing body parts). At the heart of the story is Pocahontas, who speaks Valley Girl, Ebonics, Old English, and Algonquin—sometimes all in the same sentence. And she pursues a heated romance with settler Johnny Rolfe via text messaging, instant messaging, and, ultimately, telepathy.
Deadly serious and seriously funny, Matthew Sharpe’s fictional retelling of one of America’s original myths is a history of violence, a cross-cultural love story, and a tragicomic commentary on America’s past and present.

 

 

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