Book Club in a Bag

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Perfect for Book Groups!

  • ✔ Ten copies of the same book in one easy-to-carry bag
  • ✔ Printer-ready Reading Group Guides for each title
  • ✔ The self-serve collection of available Book Club in a Bag sets is located on the first floor of Central Library

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Available Titles

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10% Happier by Dan Harris10% Happier  New!
Harris, Dan
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 158.12 H3137
2014 | Reading Group Guide PDF
After his nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. He realized that the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had propelled him through the ranks of a hypercompetitive business, but had also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out. Eventually Harris stumbled upon an effective way to rein in that voice -- meditation, a tool that research suggests can do everything from lower your blood pressure to rewire your brain. Harris takes readers on a ride from the outer reaches of neuroscience to the inner sanctum of network news to the bizarre fringes of America's spiritual scene, and leaves them with a takeaway that could actually change their lives.
All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer SeniorAll Joy and No Fun  New!
Senior, Jennifer
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 306.874 S4775
2014 | Reading Group Guide PDF
The instant New York Times bestseller that the Christian Science Monitor declared "an important book, much the way The Feminine Mystique was, because it offers parents a common language, an understanding that they're not alone" Thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. But almost none have thought to ask: What are the effects of children on their parents? In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior analyzes the many ways children reshape their parents' lives, whether it's their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self. She argues that changes in the last half century have radically altered the roles of today's mothers and fathers, making their mandates at once more complex and far less clear. Recruiting from a wide variety of sources—in history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology—she dissects both the timeless strains of parenting and the ones that are brand new, and then brings her research to life in the homes of ordinary parents around the country. The result is an unforgettable series of family portraits, starting with parents of young children and progressing in later chapters to parents of teens. Through lively and accessible storytelling, Senior follows these mothers and fathers as they wrestle with some of parenthood's deepest vexations—and luxuriate in some of its finest rewards.  Meticulously researched yet imbued with emotional intelligence, All Joy and No Fun makes us reconsider some of our culture's most basic beliefs about parenthood, all while illuminating the profound ways children deepen and add purpose to our lives. By focusing on parenthood, rather than parenting, the book is original and essential reading for mothers and fathers of today—and tomorrow. (Amazon)
The American Way of Eating : Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, farm fields and the dinner table by Tracie McMillanThe American Way of Eating : Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, farm fields and the dinner table  
McMillan, Tracie
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 338.47664 M4789
2012 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Hailing from a middle-class rural Michigan background in which Tuna Helper and iceberg-lettuce salads were the usual dinner fare and later schooled at NYU, journalist McMillan (City Limits magazine) resolved to learn firsthand how the food America eats (mostly packaged and processed) is grown, distributed, and bought. Why does good, fresh food have to cost more and be harder to find than fast food? Over the course of a year she went "undercover," posing as a kind of ambitionless 33-year-old "white girl" in transition (she speaks Spanish), finding jobs as a fruit picker in California (grapes, peaches, garlic); a stock and produce clerk at the Wal-Mart in Kalamazoo, Mich., and another outside of Detroit; and as an expediter ("kitchen novice") at the Applebee's restaurant in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. In each job she stayed about two months; found a room to rent nearby; claims to have lived off her earnings, which she documents meticulously; and was rarely above the poverty level, e.g., as a picker she made an average of $153 a week. Personable, self-deprecating, elucidating, McMillan's account achieves an engaging balance between documentary and history, rich in the personalities of the people she works with and befriends while offering a smattering of research, such as tracing the growth of the world's first supermarket, King Kullen, and visiting Detroit's still teeming Terminal market. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Americanah by Chimamanda AdichieAmericanah  
Adichie, Chimamanda
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION ADIC
2014 | Reading Group Guide PDF
A young woman from Nigeria leaves behind her home and her first love to start a new life in America, only to find her dreams are not all she expected. One of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction An NPR "Great Reads" Book, a Chicago Tribune Best Book, a Washington Post Notable Book, a Seattle Times Best Book, an Entertainment Weekly Top Fiction Book, a Newsday Top 10 Book, and a Goodreads Best of the Year pick. A powerful, tender story of race and identity by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun. Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion--for each other and for their homeland.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine BooBehind the Beautiful Forevers  
Boo, Katherine
Call Number: BOOK CLUB LARGE TYPE 305.569 B7241
2012 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Profiles everyday life in the settlement of Annawadi as experienced by a Muslim teen, an ambitious rural mother, and a young scrap metal thief, illuminating how their efforts to build better lives are challenged by religious, caste, and economic tensions.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk  by Ben FountainBilly Lynn's Long Halftime Walk  
Fountain, Ben
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION FOUN
2012 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Unfolding over the course of one Thanksgiving Day, Fountain’s (Brief Encounters with Che Guevara) second novel follows Bravo Company, the eight survivors of a savage clash with Iraqi insurgents, on the last leg of their government-sponsored “Victory Tour” in this witty and ironic sendup of middle America, Fox News politics, and, of all things, football. One minute, the soldiers are drinking Jack and Cokes, mobbed by hordes of well-wishers demanding autographs and seeking “the truth” about what’s “really going on” over there; the next, they’re in the bowels of Texas Stadium, reluctantly hobnobbing with the Dallas Cowboys and their cheerleaders, brokering a movie deal with a smarmy Hollywood producer, and getting into a drunken scuffle with the stadium’s disgruntled road crew, all in a series of uncomfortable scenes that border on the farcical. Texan Billy Lynn is the 19-year-old hero who learns about life and himself on his visit home to his family, and the palpable camaraderie between soldiers ground the book. But despite much valid pontificating on what it means to be a soldier and the chasm that exists between the American public’s perception of the war and the blunt reality of it, the often campy writing style and canned dialogue (“We, like, we wanna do somethin’ like you. Extreme, you know, cap some Muslim freaks...”) prevents the message from being delivered effectively. Agent: Heather Schroder, ICM. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Bossypants by Tina FeyBossypants  
Fey, Tina
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 921 F433
2012 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true. At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty onSaturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy. Includes Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!)
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel BrownThe Boys in the Boat  
Brown, Daniel
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 797.123 B87761
2014 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Daniel James Brown's book tells the story of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The New York Times bestselling story about American Olympic triumph in Nazi Germany Out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant. It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington's eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys' own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man's personal quest.
Breaking Night by Liz MurrayBreaking Night  
Murray, Liz
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 921 M9829
2010 | Reading Group Guide PDF
From runaway to Harvard student, Murray tells an engaging, powerfully motivational story about turning her life around after growing up the neglected child of drug addicts. When Murray was born in 1980, her former beatnik father was in jail for illegally trafficking in prescription painkillers, and her mother, a cokehead since age 13, had just barely missed losing custody of their year-old daughter, Lisa. Murray and her sister grew up in a Bronx apartment that gradually went to seed, living off government programs and whatever was left after the parents indulged their drug binges; Murray writes that drugs were the "wrecking ball" that destroyed her family- prompting her mother's frequent institutionalization for drug-induced mental illness and leading to her parents inviting in sexual molesters. By age 15, with the help of her best friend Sam and an elusive hustler, Carlos, she took permanently to the streets, relying on friends, sadly, for shelter. With the death of her mother, her runaway world came to an end, and she began her step-by-step plan to attend an alternative high school, which eventually led to a New York Times scholarship and acceptance to Harvard. In this incredible story of true grit, Murray went from feeling like "the world was filled with people who were repulsed by me" to learning to receive the bountiful generosity of strangers who truly cared. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow WilsonThe Butterfly Mosque  
Wilson, G. Willow
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 921 W7483
2010 | Reading Group Guide PDF
In this satisfying, lyrical memoir of a potentially disastrous clash between East and West, a Boulder native and Boston University graduate found an unlikely fit living in Cairo, Egypt, and converting to Islam. Wilson embarked on a yearlong stint working at an English-language high school in Cairo right after her college graduation in 2003. She had already decided that of the three Abrahamic religions, Islam fulfilled her need for a monotheistic truth, even though her school did not include instruction in the Qur'an because "it angered students and put everybody at risk." Once in Cairo, despite being exposed to the smoldering hostility Arab men held for Americans, especially for women, she found she was moved deeply by the daily plight of the people to scratch out a living in this dusty police state tottering on the edge of "moral and financial collapse"; she and her roommate, barely eating because they did not know how to buy food, were saved by Omar, an educated, English-speaking physics teacher at the school. Through her deepening relationship with Omar, she also learned Arabic and embraced the ways Islam was woven into the daily fabric of existence, such as the rituals of Ramadan and Friday prayers at the mosque. Arguably, Wilson's decision to take up the headscarf and champion the segregated, protected status of Arab women can be viewed as odd; however, her work proves a tremendously heartfelt, healing cross-cultural fusion. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
The Children Act by Ian McEwanThe Children Act  New!
McEwan, Ian
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION MCEW
2015 | Reading Group Guide PDF
"Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child's welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts. But Fiona's professional success belies domestic strife. Her husband, Jack, asks her to consider an open marriage and, after an argument, moves out of their house. His departure leaves her adrift, wondering whether it was not love she had lost so much as a modern form of respectability; whether it was not contempt and ostracism she really fears. She decides to throw herself into her work, especially a complex case involving a seventeen-year-old boy whose parents will not permit a lifesaving blood transfusion because it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses. But Jack doesn't leave her thoughts, and the pressure to resolve the case--as well as her crumbling marriage--tests Fiona in ways that will keep readers thoroughly enthralled until the last stunning page"--
The Circle by Dave EggersThe Circle  
Eggers, Dave
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION EGGE
2014 | Reading Group Guide PDF
When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world's most powerful internet company, she feels she's been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users' personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company's modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can't believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world--even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman's ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena  by Anthony MarraA Constellation of Vital Phenomena  
Marra, Anthony
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION MARR
2014 | Reading Group Guide PDF
In a rural village in December 2004 Chechnya, a failed doctor Akhmed harbors the traumatized 8-year-old daughter of a father abducted by Russian forces and treats a series of wounded rebels and refugees while exploring the shared past that binds him to the child. New York Times Notable Book of the Year * Washington Post Top Ten Book of the Year In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded. For Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja's world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance. Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader's guide and bonus content from the author.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark HaddonThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time  
Haddon, Mark
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION HADD
2003 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. Routine, order, and predictability shelter him from the messy wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christopher's carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor's dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing." "Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents' marriage. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn into the workings of Christopher's mind.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham VergheseCutting for Stone  
Verghese, Abraham
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION VERG
2010 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Lauded for his sensitive memoir (My Own Country) about his time as a doctor in eastern Tennessee at the onset of the AIDS epidemic in the '80s, Verghese turns his formidable talents to fiction, mining his own life and experiences in a magnificent, sweeping novel that moves from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York City over decades and generations. Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a devout young nun, leaves the south Indian state of Kerala in 1947 for a missionary post in Yemen. During the arduous sea voyage, she saves the life of an English doctor bound for Ethiopia, Thomas Stone, who becomes a key player in her destiny when they meet up again at Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa. Seven years later, Sister Praise dies birthing twin boys: Shiva and Marion, the latter narrating his own and his brother's long, dramatic, biblical story set against the backdrop of political turmoil in Ethiopia, the life of the hospital compound in which they grow up and the love story of their adopted parents, both doctors at Missing. The boys become doctors as well and Verghese's weaving of the practice of medicine into the narrative is fascinating even as the story bobs and weaves with the power and coincidences of the best 19th-century novel. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Defending Jacob by William LandayDefending Jacob  
Landay, William
Call Number: BOOK CLUB MYSTERY LAND
2013 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Andy Barber, a respected First Assistant DA who lives in Newton, Mass., with his gentle wife, Laurie, and their 14-year-old son, Jacob, must face the unthinkable in Dagger Award-winner Landay's harrowing third suspense novel. When Ben Rifkin, Jacob's classmate, is found stabbed to death in the woods, Internet accusations and incontrovertible evidence point to big, handsome Jacob. Andy's prosecutorial gut insists a child molester is the real killer, but as Jacob's trial proceeds and Andy's marriage crumbles under the forced revelation of old secrets, horror builds on horror toward a breathtakingly brutal outcome. Landay (The Strangler), a former DA, mixes gritty court reporting with Andy's painful confrontation with himself, forcing readers willy-nilly to realize the end is never the end when, as Landay claims, the line between truth and justice has become so indistinct as to appear imaginary. This searing narrative proves the ancient Greek tragedians were right: the worst punishment is not death but living with what you-knowingly or unknowingly-have done. Author tour. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Dinner by Herman KochThe Dinner  
Koch, Herman
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION KOCH
2013 | Reading Group Guide PDF
"A European Gone Girl ." -- The Wall Street Journal An internationally bestselling phenomenon: the darkly suspenseful, highly controversial tale of two families struggling to make the hardest decision of their lives--all over the course of one meal. It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened. nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love. nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy. Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader's guide and bonus content
The Dog Stars by Peter HellerThe Dog Stars  
Heller, Peter
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION HELL
2012 | Reading Group Guide PDF
In the tradition of postapocalyptic literary fiction such as Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Jim Crace's The Pesthouse, this hypervisceral first novel by adventure writer Heller (Kook) takes place nine years after a superflu has killed off much of mankind. Hig, an amateur pilot living in Colorado, has retreated to an abandoned airport from which he flies sorties in "the Beast," his vintage Cessna, over isolated pockets of survivors. His only neighbor is the survivalist Bangley, who's sitting on a stockpile of weapons and munitions, and the only visitors are plague survivors who have descended into savagery. Hig's one real comfort, besides the memory of his dead wife, Melissa, who fell victim to the flu while pregnant, is his dog, Jasper. But when that comfort is withdrawn, Hig flies west in search of the radio voice that called out to him three years before. Instead, he ends up being shot down and restrained by a doctor named Cima and her shotgun-toting father, a former Navy SEAL. With its evocative descriptions of hunting, fishing, and flying, this novel, perhaps the world's most poetic survival guide, reads as if Billy Collins had novelized one of George Romero's zombie flicks. From start to finish, Heller carries the reader aloft on graceful prose, intense action, and deeply felt emotion. Agent: David Halpern, the Robbins Office. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Euphoria by Lily KingEuphoria  New!
King, Lily
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION KING
2014 | Reading Group Guide PDF
"English anthropologist Andrew Banson has been alone in the field for several years, studying the Kiona river tribe in the Territory of New Guinea. Haunted by the memory of his brothers' deaths and increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide when a chance encounter with colleagues, the controversial Nell Stone and her wry and mercurial Australian husband, Fen, pulls him back from the brink. Nell and Fen have just fled the bloodthirsty Mumbanyo and, in spite of Nell's poor health, are hungry for a new discovery. When Bankson finds them a new tribe nearby, the artistic, female-dominated Tam, he ignites an intellectual and romantic firestorm between the three of them that burns out of anyone's control" --
The Faith Club by Ranya IdlibyThe Faith Club  
Idliby, Ranya
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 201.5 I199
2007 | Reading Group Guide PDF
A groundbreaking book about Americans searching for faith and mutual respect, The Faith Club weaves the story of three women, their three religions, and their urgent quest to understand one another.When an American Muslim woman befriends two other mothers, one Jewish and one Christian, they decide to educate their children about their respective religions. None of them guessed their regular meetings would provide life-changing answers and form bonds that would forever alter their struggles with prejudice, fear, and anger. Personal, powerful, and compelling, The Faith Club forces readers to face the tough questions about their own religions.Pioneering, timely, deeply thoughtful, and full of hope, The Faith Club’s caring message will resonate with people of all faiths.
Farm City : The education of an urban farmer by Novella CarpenterFarm City : The education of an urban farmer  
Carpenter, Novella
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 630 C296
2009 | Reading Group Guide PDF
This upbeat account of raising poultry, rabbits, pigs and bees in the middle of a rundown neighborhood in Oakland, Calif., will make listeners either run out to reclaim some vacant lots or cringe at the thought that they might one day live next door to and downwind from such a menagerie. Karen White vividly individualizes the colorful locals, including Bobby (who lives in abandoned cars), the Buddhist monks across the way, the skeptical neighbors, the Chinese landlord and the random foragers who help themselves to Carpenter's bounty. Narrated with cheerful verve, White's performance will charm even those readers without the slightest inclination to get up close and personal with their future meals. A Penguin Press hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 20). (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
The Glass Castle: A Memoir  by Jeannette WallsThe Glass Castle: A Memoir  
Walls, Jeannette
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 921 W215
2005 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever." "Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town - and the family - Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home." "What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
Gulp by Mary RoachGulp  
Roach, Mary
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 612.3 R6282
2014 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Why is crunchy food so appealing? Why is it so hard to find words for flavors and smells? Why doesn't the stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Can constipation kill you? Did it kill Elvis? In Gulp we meet scientists who tackle the questions no one else thinks of; or has the courage to ask.
The Husband’s Secret by Liane MoriartyThe Husband’s Secret  New!
Moriarty, Liane
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION MORI
2015 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Discovering a tattered letter that says she is to open it only in the event of her husband's death, Cecelia, a successful family woman, is unable to resist reading the letter and discovers a secret that shatters her life and the lives of two other women.
I Am the Messenger by Markus ZusakI Am the Messenger  
Zusak, Markus
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION ZUSA
2006 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Australian cabdriver Ed Kennedy is 19, aimlessly lurching into adulthood when he thwarts a bank robbery in the hilarious opening scene of this gritty, gripping and ultimately romantic mystery. Ed's 15 minutes of fame set his life in a new direction: he begins receiving playing cards with cryptic clues, such as addresses or names unknown to him. Following these clues leads him to intervene in the lives of others. In the most chilling bit, a gun appears in his mailbox, which he assumes is intended for his use in dealing with a man who is brutalizing his wife. The assignments don't get more violent but they do get more personal, such as those involving Ed's mother, "one of those tough women you couldn't kill with an axe,"and his lovable misfit mates-Ritchie, Marv and Audrey. Zusak takes the subtleties of family dynamics, previously examined in his Fighting Ruben Wolfe and Getting the Girl, to a new level here. As the novel progresses, even Ed's unsympathetic parents take on three dimensions. The author artfully pulls readers through the many plot twists, building to a startling revelation. The metafictional ending may strike some readers as a shortcut, but it's sure to spark discussion, and readers will remember the characters long after they close the book. Even Ed's rank-smelling dog, The Doorman, is well-drawn. Graphic situations (both violent and sexual) mark this as a book for more sophisticated readers. Don't start this compulsively readable book without enough time to read it straight through to the final page. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks  
Skloot, Rebecca
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 921 L141S
2011 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Science journalist Skloot makes a remarkable debut with this multilayered story about "faith, science, journalism, and grace." It is also a tale of medical wonders and medical arrogance, racism, poverty and the bond that grows, sometimes painfully, between two very different women-Skloot and Deborah Lacks-sharing an obsession to learn about Deborah's mother, Henrietta, and her magical, immortal cells. Henrietta Lacks was a 31-year-old black mother of five in Baltimore when she died of cervical cancer in 1951. Without her knowledge, doctors treating her at Johns Hopkins took tissue samples from her cervix for research. They spawned the first viable, indeed miraculously productive, cell line-known as HeLa. These cells have aided in medical discoveries from the polio vaccine to AIDS treatments. What Skloot so poignantly portrays is the devastating impact Henrietta's death and the eventual importance of her cells had on her husband and children. Skloot's portraits of Deborah, her father and brothers are so vibrant and immediate they recall Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family. Writing in plain, clear prose, Skloot avoids melodrama and makes no judgments. Letting people and events speak for themselves, Skloot tells a rich, resonant tale of modern science, the wonders it can perform and how easily it can exploit society's most vulnerable people. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik LarsonIn the Garden of Beasts  
Larson, Erik
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 943.086 L3346
2011 | Reading Group Guide PDF
In this mesmerizing portrait of the Nazi capital, Larson plumbs a far more diabolical urban cauldron than in his bestselling The Devil in the White City. He surveys Berlin, circa 1933-1934, from the perspective of two American naifs: Roosevelt's ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, an academic historian and Jeffersonian liberal who hoped Nazism would de-fang itself (he urged Hitler to adopt America's milder conventions of anti-Jewish discrimination), and Dodd's daughter Martha, a sexual free spirit who loved Nazism's vigor and ebullience. At first dazzled by the glamorous world of the Nazi ruling elite, they soon started noticing signs of its true nature: the beatings meted out to Americans who failed to salute passing storm troopers; the oppressive surveillance; the incessant propaganda; the intimidation and persecution of friends; the fanaticism lurking beneath the surface charm of its officialdom. Although the narrative sometimes bogs down in Dodd's wranglings with the State Department and Martha's soap opera, Larson offers a vivid, atmospheric panorama of the Third Reich and its leaders, including murderous Nazi factional infighting, through the accretion of small crimes and petty thuggery. Photos. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk KiddThe Invention of Wings  New!
Kidd, Sue Monk
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION KIDD
2014 | Reading Group Guide PDF
The story follows Hetty 'Handful' Grimke, a Charleston slave, and Sarah, the daughter of the wealthy Grimke family. The novel begins on Sarah's eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership over Handful, who is to be her handmaid. The Invention of Wings follows the next thirty-five years of their lives. Inspired in part by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke (a feminist, suffragist and, importantly, an abolitionist), Kidd allows herself to go beyond the record to flesh out the inner lives of all the characters, both real and imagined"-- Provided by publisher.
The Kitchen House by Kathleen GrissomThe Kitchen House  
Grissom, Kathleen
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION GRIS
2010 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Grissom's unsentimental debut twists the conventions of the antebellum novel just enough to give readers an involving new perspective on what would otherwise be fairly stock material. Lavinia, an orphaned seven-year-old white indentured servant, arrives in 1791 to work in the kitchen house at Tall Oaks, a Tidewater, Va., tobacco plantation owned by Capt. James Pyke. Belle, the captain's illegitimate half-white daughter who runs the kitchen house, shares narration duties, and the two distinctly different voices chronicle a troublesome 20 years: Lavinia becomes close to the slaves working the kitchen house, but she can't fully fit in because of her race. At 17, she marries Marshall, the captain's brutish son turned inept plantation master, and as Lavinia ingratiates herself into the family and the big house, racial tensions boil over into lynching, rape, arson, and murder. The plantation's social order's emphasis on violence, love, power, and corruption provides a trove of tension and grit, while the many nefarious doings will keep readers hooked to the twisted, yet hopeful, conclusion. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa DiffenbaughThe Language of Flowers  
Diffenbaugh, Vanessa
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION DIFF
2012 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Diffenbaugh's affecting debut chronicles the first harrowing steps into adulthood taken by a deeply wounded soul who finds her only solace in an all-but-forgotten language. On her 18th birthday, Victoria Jones ages out of the foster care system, a random series of living arrangements around the San Francisco Bay Area the only home she's ever known. Unable to express herself with words, she relies on the Victorian language of flowers to communicate: dahlias for "dignity"; rhododendron for "beware." Released from care with almost nothing, Victoria becomes homeless, stealing food and sleeping in McKinley Square, in San Francisco, where she maintains a small garden. Her secret knowledge soon lands her a job selling flowers, where she meets Grant, a mystery man who not only speaks her language, but also holds a crucial key to her past. Though Victoria is wary of almost everyone, she opens to Grant, and he reconnects her with the only person who has ever mattered in her life. Diffenbaugh's narrator is a hardened survivor and wears her damage on her sleeve. Struggling against all and ultimately reborn, Victoria Jones is hard to love, but very easy to root for. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Last Child in the Woods by Richard LouvLast Child in the Woods  
Louv, Richard
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 155.418 L894 2008
2008 | Reading Group Guide PDF
"I like to play indoors better 'cause that's where all the electrical outlets are," reports a fourth-grader. Never before in history have children been so plugged in--and so out of touch with the natural world. In this groundbreaking new work, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today's wired generation--he calls it nature deficit--to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as rises in obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and depression. Some startling facts: By the 1990s the radius around the home where children were allowed to roam on their own had shrunk to a ninth of what it had been in 1970. Today, average eight-year-olds are better able to identify cartoon characters than native species, such as beetles and oak trees, in their own community. The rate at which doctors prescribe antidepressants to children has doubled in the last five years, and recent studies show that too much computer use spells trouble for the developing mind. Nature-deficit disorder is not a medical condition; it is a description of the human costs of alienation from nature. This alienation damages children and shapes adults, families, and communities. There are solutions, though, and they're right in our own backyards. Last child in the Woods is the first book to bring together cutting-edge research showing that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development--physical, emotional, and spiritual. What's more, nature is a potent therapy for depression, obesity, and ADD. Environment-based education dramatically improves standardized test scores and grade point averages and develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making. Even creativity is stimulated by childhood experiences in nature. Yet sending kids outside to play is increasingly difficult. Computers, television, and video games compete for their time, of course, but it's also our fears of traffic, strangers, even virus-carrying mosquitoes--fears the media exploit--that keep children indoors. Meanwhile, schools assign more and more homework, and there is less and less access to natural areas. Parents have the power to ensure that their daughter or son will not be the "last child in the woods," and this book is the first step toward that nature-child reunion.
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Little Bee by Chris CleaveLittle Bee  
Cleave, Chris
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION CLEA
2010 | Reading Group Guide PDF
A violent incident on a Nigerian beach has tragic echoes in posh London in Cleave's beautifully staged if haphazardly plotted debut novel. British couple Andrew O'Rourke and his wife, Sarah, are on vacation when they come across two sisters, Little Bee and Nkiruka, on the run from the killers who have massacred everyone else in their village-in the pay, it turns out, of an oil company seeking the land. Soon the killers arrive and propose a not-quite-credible deal: they will trade the girls if Andrew and Sarah each cut off a finger. Andrew can't do it, but Sarah does, and the killers drag the girls away. So two years later, when Little Bee shows up at Sarah's house on the day of the funeral for Andrew, who has killed himself, it seems almost miraculous. Later, however, it's revealed that Little Bee has been hiding around the O'Rourke place, and that Andrew seeing her set off his suicide. Sarah nevertheless determines to help Little Bee get refugee status. Cleave has a sharp cinematic eye, but the plot is undermined by weak motivations and coincidences. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
The Living Great Lakes : Searching for the heart of the inland seas by Jerry DennisThe Living Great Lakes : Searching for the heart of the inland seas  
Dennis, Jerry
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 977 D411
2004 | Reading Group Guide PDF
If fresh water is to be treasured, the Great Lakes are the mother lode. No bodies of water can compare to them. One of them, Superior, is the largest lake on earth, and the five lakes together contain a fifth of the world's supply of standing fresh water. Their ten thousand miles of shoreline bound eight states and a Canadian province and are longer than the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States. Their surface area of 95,000 square miles is greater than New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island combined. People who have never visited them -- who have never seen a squall roar across Superior or the horizon stretch unbroken across Michigan or Huron -- have no idea how big they are. They are so vast that they dominate much of the geography, climate, and history of North America. In one way or another, they affect the lives of tens of millions of people. The Living Great Lakes is the most complete book ever written about the history, nature, and science of these remarkable lakes at the heart of North America. From the geological forces that formed them to the industrial atrocities that nearly destroyed them, to the greatest environmental success stories of our time, the lakes are portrayed in all their complexity. The book, however, is much more than just history. It is also the story of the lakes as told by biologists, fishermen, sailors, and others whom the author grew to know while traveling with them on boats and hiking with them on beaches and islands. The book is also the story of a personal journey. It is the narrative of a six-week voyage through the lakes and beyond as a crewmember on a tallmasted schooner, and a memoir of a lifetime spent on and near the lakes. Through storms and fog, on remote shores and city waterfronts, the author explores the five Great Lakes in all seasons and moods and discovers that they and their connecting waters -- including the Erie Canal, the Hudson River, and the East Coast from New York to Maine -- offer a surprising and bountiful view of America. The result is a meditation on nature and our place in the world, a discussion and cautionary tale about the future of water resources, and a celebration of a place that is both fragile and robust, diverse, rich in history and wildlife, often misunderstood, and worthy of our attention.
Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo CampbellOnce Upon a River  
Campbell, Bonnie Jo
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION CAMP
2011 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Bonnie Jo Campbell has created an unforgettable heroine in sixteen-year-old Margo Crane, a beauty whose unflinching gaze and uncanny ability with a rifle have not made her life any easier. After the violent death of her father, in which she is complicit, Margo takes to the Stark River in her boat, with only a few supplies and a biography of Annie Oakley, in search of her vanished mother. But the river, Margo's childhood paradise, is a dangerous place for a young woman traveling alone, and she must be strong to survive, using her knowledge of the natural world and her ability to look unsparingly into the hearts of those around her. Her river odyssey through rural Michigan becomes a defining journey, one that leads her beyond self-preservation and to the decision of what price she is willing to pay for her choices. (Syndetics)
Orange is the New Black by Piper KermanOrange is the New Black  
Kerman, Piper
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 365.43 K395
2011 | Reading Group Guide PDF
With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187--424--one of the millions of people who disappear "down the rabbit hole" of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman's story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison--why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they're there. Praise for Orange Is the New Black "Fascinating . . . The true subject of this unforgettable book is female bonding and the ties that even bars can't unbind." -- People (four stars) "I loved this book. It's a story rich with humor, pathos, and redemption. What I did not expect from this memoir was the affection, compassion, and even reverence that Piper Kerman demonstrates for all the women she encountered while she was locked away in jail. I will never forget it." --Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love "This book is impossible to put down because [Kerman] could be you. Or your best friend. Or your daughter." -- Los Angeles Times "Moving . . . transcends the memoir genre's usual self-centeredness to explore how human beings can always surprise you." -- USA Today "It's a compelling awakening, and a harrowing one--both for the reader and for Kerman." --Newsweek.com Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader's Circle for author chats and more.
Orphan Train by Christina Baker KlineOrphan Train  
Kline, Christina Baker
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION KLIN
2013 | Reading Group Guide PDF
A captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask. A powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship.
The Other Wes Moore by Wes MooreThe Other Wes Moore  
Moore, Wes
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 921 M8251
2010 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Two hauntingly similar boys take starkly different paths in this searing tale of the ghetto. Moore, an investment banker, Rhodes scholar, and former aide to Condoleezza Rice, was intrigued when he learned that another Wes Moore, his age and from the same area of Greater Baltimore, was wanted for killing a cop. Meeting his double and delving into his life reveals deeper likenesses: raised in fatherless families and poor black neighborhoods, both felt the lure of the money and status to be gained from dealing drugs. That the author resisted the criminal underworld while the other Wes drifted into it is chalked up less to character than to the influence of relatives, mentors, and expectations that pushed against his own delinquent impulses, to the point of exiling him to military school. Moore writes with subtlety and insight about the plight of ghetto youth, viewing it from inside and out; he probes beneath the pathologies to reveal the pressures-poverty, a lack of prospects, the need to respond to violence with greater violence-that propelled the other Wes to his doom. The result is a moving exploration of roads not taken. (May 4) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Quiet : The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking by Susan CainQuiet : The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking  
Cain, Susan
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 155.232 C1355
2012 | Reading Group Guide PDF
While American culture and business tend to be dominated by extroverts, business consultant Cain explores and champions the one-third to one-half of the population who are introverts. She defines the term broadly, including "solitude-seeking" and "contemplative," but also "sensitive," "humble," and "risk-averse." Such individuals, she claims (though with insufficient evidence), are "disproportionately represented among the ranks of the spectacularly creative." Yet the American school and workplace make it difficult for those who draw strength from solitary musing by over-emphasizing teamwork and what she calls "the new Groupthink." Cain gives excellent portraits of a number of introverts and shatters misconceptions. For example, she notes, introverts can negotiate as well as, or better than, alpha males and females because they can take a firm stand "without inflaming [their] counterpart's ego." Cain provides tips to parents and teachers of children who are introverted or seem socially awkward and isolated. She suggests, for instance, exposing them gradually to new experiences that are otherwise overstimulating. Cain consistently holds the reader's interest by presenting individual profiles, looking at places dominated by extroverts (Harvard Business School) and introverts (a West Coast retreat center), and reporting on the latest studies. Her diligence, research, and passion for this important topic has richly paid off. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Ready Player One by Ernest ClineReady Player One  
Cline, Ernest
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION CLIN
2011 | Reading Group Guide PDF
This adrenaline shot of uncut geekdom, a quest through a virtual world, is loaded with enough 1980s nostalgia to please even the most devoted John Hughes fans. In a bleak but easily imagined 2044, Wade Watts, an impoverished high school student who calls a vertically stacked trailer park home, lives primarily online, alongside billions of others, via a massive online game, OASIS, where players race to unravel the puzzles OASIS creator James Halliday built into the game before his death, with the winner taking control of the virtual world's parent company, as well as staggering wealth. When Wade stumbles on a clue, he's plunged into high-stakes conflict with a corporation dedicated to unraveling Halliday's riddles, which draw from Dungeons and Dragons, old Atari video games, the cinematic computer hacker ode War Games, and that wellspring of geek humor, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (Of course.) The science fiction, video game, technology, and geeky musical references pile up quickly, sometimes a bit much so, but sweet, self-deprecating Wade, whose universe is an odd mix of the real past and the virtual present, is the perfect lovable/unlikely hero. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Redeployment by Phil KlayRedeployment  New!
Klay, Phil
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION KLAY
2015 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Phil Klay's Redeployment takes readers to the frontlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned. Interwoven with themes of brutality and faith, guilt and fear, helplessness and survival, the characters in these stories struggle to make meaning out of chaos"--
The Round House by Louise  ErdrichThe Round House  New!
Erdrich, Louise
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION ERDR
2013 | Reading Group Guide PDF
When his mother, a tribal enrollment specialist living on a reservation in North Dakota, slips into an abyss of depression after being brutally attacked, 14-year-old Joe Coutz sets out with his three friends to find the person that destroyed his family.
Ruby by Cynthia BondRuby  New!
Bond, Cynthia
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION BOND
2015 | Reading Group Guide PDF
"Ephram Jenkins has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby, "the kind of pretty it hurt to look at," is already quite damaged, but Ephram is forcibly drawn to her. As soon as she becomes a young woman and has any power of her own, Ruby flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York City. Years later, when a funeral forces her to return home, 30-year-old Ruby will find herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town's dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised and stood by him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy"--
Run by Ann PatchettRun  
Patchett, Ann
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION PATC
2008 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Set over a period of 24 hours, "Run" shows how worlds of privilege and poverty can coexist only blocks apart from each other, and how family can include the most unlikely of people, in this novel about secrets, duty, responsibility, and the lengths people will go to protect their children.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue KiddThe Secret Life of Bees  
Kidd, Sue
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION KIDD
2002 | Reading Group Guide PDF
In Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, 14-year-old Lily Owen, neglected by her father and isolated on their South Carolina peach farm, spends hours imagining a blissful infancy when she was loved and nurtured by her mother, Deborah, whom she barely remembers. These consoling fantasies are her heart's answer to the family story that as a child, in unclear circumstances, Lily accidentally shot and killed her mother. All Lily has left of Deborah is a strange image of a Black Madonna, with the words "Tiburon, South Carolina" scrawled on the back. The search for a mother, and the need to mother oneself, are crucial elements in this well-written coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s against a background of racial violence and unrest. When Lily's beloved nanny, Rosaleen, manages to insult a group of angry white men on her way to register to vote and has to skip town, Lily takes the opportunity to go with her, fleeing to the only place she can think of--Tiburon, South Carolina--determined to find out more about her dead mother. Although the plot threads are too neatly trimmed, The Secret Life of Bees is a carefully crafted novel with an inspired depiction of character. The legend of the Black Madonna and the brave, kind, peculiar women who perpetuate Lily's story dominate the second half of the book, placing Kidd's debut novel squarely in the honored tradition of the Southern Gothic.
The Sense of an Ending by Julian BarnesThe Sense of an Ending  
Barnes, Julian
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION BARN
2011 | Reading Group Guide PDF
In Barnes's (Flaubert's Parrot) latest, winner of the 2011 Man-Booker Prize, protagonist Tony Webster has lived an average life with an unremarkable career, a quiet divorce, and a calm middle age. Now in his mid-60s, his retirement is thrown into confusion when he's bequeathed a journal that belonged to his brilliant school-friend, Adrian, who committed suicide 40 years earlier at age 22. Though he thought he understood the events of his youth, he's forced to radically revise what he thought he knew about Adrian, his bitter parting with his mysterious first lover Veronica, and reflect on how he let life pass him by safely and predictably. Barnes's spare and luminous prose splendidly evokes the sense of a life whose meaning (or meaninglessness) is inevitably defined by "the sense of an ending" which only death provides. Despite its focus on the blindness of youth and the passage of time, Barnes's book is entirely unpretentious. From the haunting images of its first pages to the surprising and wrenching finale, the novel carries readers with sensitivity and wisdom through the agony of lost time. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth KolbertSixth Extinction  New!
Kolbert, Elizabeth
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 576.84 K812
2015 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.
State of Wonder by Ann PatchettState of Wonder  
Patchett, Ann
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION PATC
2012 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Patchett (Bel Canto) is a master storyteller who has an entertaining habit of dropping ordinary people into extraordinary and exotic circumstances to see what they're made of. In this expansive page-turner, Marina Singh, a big pharma researcher, is sent by her married boss/lover to the deepest, darkest corner of the Amazon to investigate the death of her colleague, Anders Eckman, who had been dispatched to check on the progress of the incommunicado Dr. Annick Swenson, a rogue scientist on the cusp of developing a fertility drug that could rock the medical profession (and reap enormous profits). After arriving in Manaus, Marina travels into her own heart of darkness, finding Dr. Swenson's camp among the Lakashi, a gentle but enigmatic tribe whose women go on bearing children until the end of their lives. As Marina settles in, she goes native, losing everything she had held on to so dearly in her prescribed Midwestern life, shedding clothing, technology, old loves, and modern medicine in order to find herself. Patchett's fluid prose dissolves in the suspense of this out-there adventure, a juggernaut of a trip to the crossroads of science, ethics, and commerce that readers will hate to see end. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Still Alice by Lisa GenovaStill Alice  New!
Genova, Lisa
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION GENO
2014 | Reading Group Guide PDF
In Lisa Genova’s extraordinary New York Times bestselling novel, an accomplished professor diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease learns that her worth is comprised of more than her ability to remember. Now a major motion picture from Sony Pictures Classics starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, and Kristen Stewart! Look for Lisa Genova's next novel Inside the O’Briens. Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life—and her relationship with her family and the world—forever. At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People. (Amazon)
The Submission by Amy WaldmanThe Submission  
Waldman, Amy
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION WALD
2011 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Entertainment Weekly 's Favorite Novel of 2011  Esquire 's 2011 Book of the Year A New York Times Notable Book for 2011 A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book for 2011 One of NPR's 10 Best Novels of 2011 Ten years after 9/11, a dazzling, kaleidoscopic novel reimagines its aftermath A jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of a devastating terrorist attack. Their fraught deliberations complete, the jurors open the envelope containing the anonymous winner's name--and discover he is an American Muslim. Instantly they are cast into roiling debate about the claims of grief, the ambiguities of art, and the meaning of Islam. Their conflicted response is only a preamble to the country's. The memorial's designer is an enigmatic, ambitious architect named Mohammad Khan. His fiercest defender on the jury is its sole widow, the self-possessed and mediagenic Claire Burwell. But when the news of his selection leaks to the press, she finds herself under pressure from outraged family members and in collision with hungry journalists, wary activists, opportunistic politicians, fellow jurors, and Khan himself--as unknowable as he is gifted. In the fight for both advantage and their ideals, all will bring the emotional weight of their own histories to bear on the urgent question of how to remember, and understand, a national tragedy. In this deeply humane novel, the breadth of Amy Waldman's cast of characters is matched by her startling ability to conjure their perspectives. A striking portrait of a fractured city striving to make itself whole, The Submission is a piercing and resonant novel by an important new talent.
Thinking, Fast and Slow  by Daniel KahnemanThinking, Fast and Slow  New!
Kahneman, Daniel
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 153.42 K129
2014 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities and also the faults and biases of fast thinking, and the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on peoples' thoughts and choices.
Unbroken by Laura HillenbrandUnbroken  
Hillenbrand, Laura
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 921 Z26H
2014 | Reading Group Guide PDF
In 1943, while World War II raged on in the Pacific Theater, Lieutenant Louis Zamperini was the only survivor of a deadly plane crash in the middle of the ocean. Zamperini had a troubled youth, yet honed his athletic skills and made it all the way to the 1934 Olympics in Berlin. However, what lay before him was a physical gauntlet unlike anything he had encountered before: thousands of miles of open ocean, a small raft, and no food or water. In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will. Unbroken is an unforgettable testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit, brought vividly to life by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand. Hailed as the top nonfiction book of the year by Time magazine * Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for biography and the Indies Choice Adult Nonfiction Book of the Year award "Extraordinarily moving . . . a powerfully drawn survival epic." -- The Wall Street Journal "[A] one-in-a-billion story . . . designed to wrench from self-respecting critics all the blurby adjectives we normally try to avoid: It is amazing, unforgettable, gripping, harrowing, chilling, and inspiring." --New York "Staggering . . . mesmerizing . . . Hillenbrand's writing is so ferociously cinematic, the events she describes so incredible, you don't dare take your eyes off the page." -- People "A meticulous, soaring and beautifully written account of an extraordinary life." --The Washington Post "Ambitious and powerful . . . a startling narrative and an inspirational book." --The New York Times Book Review "Magnificent . . . incredible . . . [Hillenbrand] has crafted another masterful blend of sports, history and overcoming terrific odds; this is biography taken to the nth degree, a chronicle of a remarkable life lived through extraordinary times." --The Dallas Morning News "An astonishing testament to the superhuman power of tenacity." -- Entertainment Weekly "A tale of triumph and redemption . . . astonishingly detailed." -- O: The Oprah Magazine "[A] masterfully told true story . . . nothing less than a marvel." -- Washingtonian "[Hillenbrand tells this] story with cool elegance but at a thrilling sprinter's pace." --Time "Hillenbrand [is] one of our best writers of narrative history. You don't have to be a sports fan or a war-history buff to devour this book--you just have to love great storytelling." --Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel JoyceThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry  
Joyce, Rachel
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION JOYC
2012 | Reading Group Guide PDF
When Harold Fry, a morbidly shy, retired British brewery salesman, decides on a whim to walk the distance between his home in southern England and the hospice where his long-lost friend, Queenie Hennessey, is dying of cancer, he has no idea that his act will change his life and inspire hundreds of people. The motivation behind the trek and why he is burdened by guilt and the need to atone, are gradually revealed in this initially captivating but finally pedestrian first novel by English writer Joyce. During Harold's arduous trek, which covers 627 miles and 87 days, he uncoils the memory of his destructive rampage for which Queenie took the blame. He also acknowledges the unraveling of his marriage and his anguish about the lack of intimacy with his son. Plagued by doubt and exhaustion, he undergoes a dark night of the soul, but in the tradition of classical pilgrimages, he ultimately achieves spiritual affirmation. Joyce writes with precision about the changing landscape as Harold trudges his way across England. Early chapters of the book are beguiling, but a final revelation tests credulity, and the sentimental ending may be an overdose of what the Brits call "pudding." Agent: Conville & Walsh Literary Agency. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel WilkersonThe Warmth of Other Suns  
Wilkerson, Isabel
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 973.0496 W681
2011 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy FowlerWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves  New!
Fowler, Karen Joy
Call Number: BOOK CLUB FICTION FOWL
2014 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Coming of age in middle America, eighteen-year-old Rosemary evaluates how her entire youth was defined by the presence and forced removal of an endearing chimpanzee who was secretly regarded as a family member and who Rosemary loved as a sister.
Wild by Cheryl StrayedWild  
Strayed, Cheryl
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 921 S9135
2013 | Reading Group Guide PDF
In the summer of 1995, at age 26 and feeling at the end of her rope emotionally, Strayed resolved to hike solo the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,663-mile wilderness route stretching from the Mexican border to the Canadian and traversing nine mountain ranges and three states. In this detailed, in-the-moment re-enactment, she delineates the travails and triumphs of those three grueling months. Living in Minneapolis, on the verge of divorcing her husband, Strayed was still reeling from the sudden death four years before of her mother from cancer; the ensuing years formed an erratic, confused time "like a crackling Fourth of July sparkler." Hiking the trail helped decide what direction her life would take, even though she had never seriously hiked or carried a pack before. Starting from Mojave, Calif., hauling a pack she called the Monster because it was so huge and heavy, she had to perform a dead lift to stand, and then could barely make a mile an hour. Eventually she began to experience "a kind of strange, abstract, retrospective fun," meeting the few other hikers along the way, all male; jettisoning some of the weight from her pack and burning books she had read; and encountering all manner of creature and acts of nature from rock slides to snow. Her account forms a charming, intrepid trial by fire, as she emerges from the ordeal bruised but not beaten, changed, a lone survivor. Agent: Janet Silver, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Agency. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan DidionThe Year of Magical Thinking  
Didion, Joan
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 921 D556
2005 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage - and a life, in good times and bad - that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child." "Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later - the night before New Year's Eve - the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center to relieve a massive hematoma." "This book is Didion's attempt to make sense of the "weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness ... about marriage and children and memory ... about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.
Zeitoun by Dave EggersZeitoun  
Eggers, Dave
Call Number: BOOK CLUB 976.3 E295
2010 | Reading Group Guide PDF
Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) chronicles the tribulations of Syrian-born painting contractor Abdulrahman Zeitoun, who, while aiding in rescue efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, was inexplicably arrested by military personnel and swept into a bureaucratic maelstrom of civil injustices. Audie Award nominee Firdous Bamji (The Enchantress of Florence) conveys the sense of pending disaster, the fear, the distress, and the ultimate sense of relief Zeitoun must have felt upon his release. This Kafka-esque story is sure to shock, horrify, and outrage listeners and will especially appeal to those who enjoy nonfiction survival stories. It should be required reading/listening to ensure that nothing like the events described here will ever be repeated. [The McSweeney's hc, published in July 2009, was a New York Times best seller; see also J. Sara Paulk's review of Eggers's The Wild Things, p. 60.-Ed.]-Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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