It’s that time again – we want to know what your book clubs want to read! Below you will find the descriptions of the books on our Fall Book Club Survey. The survey is open until August 31st!
Book Descriptions and Reviews:
Unsaid (2011) by Neil Abramson
Reviews: Kirkus Reviews |Publishers Weekly | Fresh Fiction
As a veterinarian, Helena was required to choose when to end the lives of the terminally ill animals in her care. Now that she has died, she is afraid to face them and finally admit to herself that her thirty-seven years of life were meaningless, error-ridden, and forgettable. So Helena lingers, a silent observer haunted by the life she left behind – her shattered attorney husband, David; her houseful of damaged but beloved animals; and her final project, Cindy, a chimpanzee trained to use sign language who may be able to unlock the mysteries of animal communication and consciousness. When Cindy is scheduled for a research experiment that will undoubtedly take her life, David must call upon everything he has learned from Helena to save her.
The Dressmaker (2012) by Kate Alcott
Reviews: USA Today | Kirkus Reviews | The Washington Post
Tess, an aspiring seamstress, thinks she’s had an incredibly lucky break when she is hired by famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon to be a personal maid on the Titanic’s doomed voyage. Once on board, Tess catches the eye of two men, one a roughly-hewn but kind sailor and the other an enigmatic Chicago millionaire. But on the fourth night, disaster strikes. Amidst the chaos and desperate urging of two very different suitors, Tess is one of the last people allowed on a lifeboat. Tess’s sailor also manages to survive unharmed, witness to Lady Duff Gordon’s questionable actions during the tragedy. On dry land, rumors about the survivors begin to circulate, and Lady Duff Gordon quickly becomes the subject of media scorn and later, the hearings on the Titanic.
Though Waters Roar (2009) by Lynn N. Austin
Reviews: RT Book Reviews | Publishers Weekly | Historical Novel Society
Languishing in a jail cell, Harriet Sherwood has plenty of time to sift through the memories of the three generations of women who have preceded her. As each story emerges, the strength of her family–and their deep faith in God–brings Harriet to the discovery of her own goals.
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much (2009) by Allison Hoover Bartlett
Reviews: The Washington Post | Los Angeles Times | The New York Times
Unrepentant book thief John Charles Gilkey has stolen a fortune in rare books from around the country. Yet unlike most thieves, who steal for profit, Gilkey steals for the love of the books. Perhaps equally obsessive, though, is Ken Sanders, the self-appointed “bibliodick” driven to catch him. Sanders, a lifelong rare book collector and dealer turned amateur detective, will stop at nothing to catch the thief plaguing his trade.
Minding Frankie (2011) by Maeve Binchy
Reviews: The Denver Post | Kirkus Reviews | The Seattle Times
When Nöel learns that his former flame is terminally ill and pregnant with a child she claims is his, he agrees to take care of the baby girl once she’s born. But as a recovering alcoholic whose demons are barely under control, he can’t do it alone. Luckily, he has an amazing network of family and friends who are ready to help. A tale of joy, heartbreak and hope in a close-knit Dublin community.
Running with Scissors: A Memoir (2002) by Augusten Burroughs
Reviews: Entertainment Weekly | The Guardian (UK) | USA Today
This is the true story of a boy whose mother gave him away to be raised by her psychiatrist, a dead-ringer for Santa and a lunatic in the bargain. Suddenly, at age twelve, the author found himself living in a dilapidated Victorian in perfect squalor. The doctor’s bizarre family, a few patients, and a pedophile living in the backyard shed completed the tableau. Here, there were no rules, there was no school.
Townie: A Memoir (2011) by Andre Dubus III
Reviews: The New York Times | Entertainment Weekly | The Wall Street Journal
After their parents divorce in the 1970’s, Andre Dubus III and his three siblings grew up with their exhausted working mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated with drugs and crime. To protect himself and those he loved from street violence, Andre learned to use his fists so well that he was even scared of himself. Nearby, his father, an eminent author, taught on a college campus and took the kids out on Sundays. The clash of worlds couldn’t have been more stark or more difficult for a son to communicate to a father. Only by becoming a writer himself could Andre begin to bridge the abyss and save himself.
The Eyre Affair (2001) by Jasper Fforde
Reviews: January Magazine | Kirkus Reviews | Salon
Sleuth extraordinaire Thursday Next likes few things more than curling up with a good book. Unfortunately, as long as Acheron Hades is on the loose, Thursday won’t be getting much rest. With his penchant for killing characters from literary classics, Acheron is keeping busy. Luckily, Thursday is hot on his trail, eager to save the innocent protagonists
Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (2011) by Alexandra Fuller
Reviews: The New York Times | Entertainment Weekly | The Denver Post
In this sequel to Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, the author returns to Africa and the story of her unforgettable family. In this book she braids a multilayered narrative around the perfectly lit, Happy Valley era Africa of her mother’s childhood; the boiled cabbage grimness of her father’s English childhood; and the darker, civil war torn Africa of her own childhood. At its heart, this is the story of Fuller’s mother, Nicola. Born on the Scottish Isle of Skye and raised in Kenya, Nicola holds dear the kinds of values most likely to get you hurt or killed in Africa: loyalty to blood, passion for land, and a holy belief in the restorative power of all animals.
American Gods (2001) by Neil Gaiman
Reviews: Salon | Entertainment Weekly | Kirkus Reviews
Shadow spent three years in prison, keeping his head down, doing his time. All he wanted was to get back to the loving arms of his wife and to stay out of trouble for the rest of his life. But days before his scheduled release, he learns that his wife has been killed in an accident, and his world becomes a colder place. On the plane ride home to the funeral, Shadow meets a grizzled man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A self-styled grifter and rogue, Wednesday offers Shadow a job. And Shadow, a man with nothing to lose, accepts. But working for the enigmatic Wednesday is not without its price, and Shadow soon learns that his role in Wednesday’s schemes will be far more dangerous than he ever could have imagined.
Blood, Bones, & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef (2011) by Gabrielle Hamilton
Reviews: NPR Books | Entertainment Weekly | The New York Times
Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty fierce, hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Above all she sought family, particularly the thrill and the magnificence of the one from her childhood that, in her adult years, eluded her. Hamilton’s ease and comfort in a kitchen were instilled in her at an early age when her parents hosted grand parties, often for more than one hundred friends and neighbors. The smells of spit-roasted lamb, apple wood smoke, and rosemary garlic marinade became as necessary to her as her own skin.
The Thread (2012) by Victoria Hislop
Reviews: The Daily Mail (UK) | Richard & Judy Book Review | London Evening Standard
Thessaloniki, Greece, 1917: For eighty years, the lives of Dimitri and Katerina are entwined—through Nazi occupation, civil war, persecution, and economic collapse—with the story of their homeland. In 2007, a young Anglo-Greek hears his grandparents’ remarkable story for the first time and understands he has a decision to make. For decades, Dimitri and Katerina have looked after the treasures of those who have been forced from their beloved city. Should he stay and become their new custodian?
The Faith Club (2006) by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner
Reviews: Blurbs via LitLovers | Community Reviews on Goodreads
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.
A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989) by John Irving
Reviews: The New York Times | Kirkus Reviews | The Guardian (UK)
In the summer of 1953, two eleven-year-old boys—best friends—are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy’s mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn’t believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God’s instrument. What happens to Owen, after that 1953 foul ball, is extraordinary and terrifying.
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin (2011) by Erik Larson
Reviews: Los Angeles Times | The New York Times | USA Today
Documents the efforts of the first American ambassador to Hitler’s Germany, William E. Dodd, who has to acclimate to a residence in an increasingly violent city where he is forced to associate with the Nazis while his daughter pursues a relationship with Gestapo chief Rudolf Diels.
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana (2011) by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Reviews: The Christian Science Monitor | Publishers Weekly | Kirkus Reviews
The incredible true account of Kamila Sidiqi who, when her father and brother were forced to flee Kabul, became the sole breadwinner for her five siblings. Armed only with grit and determination, she picked up a needle and thread and created a thriving business of her own and held her family together.
Breakfast with Buddha (2007) by Roland Merullo
Reviews: Kirkus Reviews | The Seattle Times |The Christian Science Monitor
When his sister tricks him into taking her guru on a trip to their childhood home, Otto Ringling, a confirmed skeptic, is not amused. Six days on the road with an enigmatic holy man who answers every question with a riddle is not what he’d planned. But in an effort to westernize his passenger—and amuse himself—he decides to show the monk some “American fun” along the way. From a chocolate factory in Hershey to a bowling alley in South Bend, from a Cubs game at Wrigley field to his family farm near Bismarck, Otto is given the remarkable opportunity to see his world—and more important, his life—through someone else’s eyes. Gradually, skepticism yields to amazement as he realizes that his companion might just be the real thing.
The Playdate (2012) by Louise Millar
Reviews: Publishers Weekly | RT Book Reviews | The Cleveland Plain Dealer
In a quiet London suburb, a group of mothers relies on each other for friendship, favors, and gossip. But some of them shouldn’t be trusted, and others have dark secrets. When Callie moved into her new neighborhood, she thought it would be easy to fit in. The other parents have been strangely hostile, though, and her frail daughter Rae is finding it impossible to make friends. Suzy, with her rich husband and her three energetic children, has been the only one to reach out, although their friendship has recently felt inexplicably strained. Now the police have suggested that someone dangerous may be living in their neighborhood, and the atmosphere feels even more toxic. Then there’s the matter of Callie’s ex-husband, and the shocking truth behind their divorce . . . a truth that she would do anything to hide.
The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates (2010) by Wes Moore
Reviews: TIME | The Christian Science Monitor | Entertainment Weekly
Two kids with the same name were born blocks apart in the same decaying city within a few years of each other. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, army officer, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation.
Cleopatra: A Life (2010) by Stacy Schiff
Reviews: The New York Times | The Washington Post | Los Angeles Times
To this day, Cleopatra proves to be one of the most important and controversial figures in ancient history. Married to both of her brothers, the first of which she defeated in a civil war before ordering the second’s murder, Cleopatra would also have affairs with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony and nearly tear the Roman Empire in two. However, author Stacy Schiff believes history has given Cleopatra a bad rap and sets out to tell the Egyptian queen’s true story.
Bright & Distant Shores (2011) by Dominic Smith
Reviews: Kirkus Reviews | Publishers Weekly | Historical Novel Society
In the waning years of the nineteenth century there was a hunger for tribal artifacts, spawning collecting voyages from museums and collectors around the globe. In 1897, one such collector, a Chicago insurance magnate, sponsors an expedition into the South Seas to commemorate the completion of his company’s new skyscraper–the world’s tallest building. The ship is to bring back an array of Melanesian weaponry and handicrafts, but also several natives related by blood. Caught up in this scheme are two orphans–Owen Graves, an itinerant trader from Chicago’s South Side who has recently proposed to the girl he must leave behind, and Argus Niu, a mission houseboy in the New Hebrides who longs to be reunited with his sister.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011) by Laini Taylor
Reviews: Los Angeles Times | The New York Times | Entertainment Weekly
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out. When a stranger–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
The World We Found (2012) by Thrity Umrigar
Reviews: The Washington Post | Kirkus Reviews | The Boston Globe
As university students in late 1970s Bombay, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta were inseparable. Spirited and unconventional, they challenged authority and fought for a better world. But over the past thirty years, the quartet has drifted apart, the day-to-day demands of work and family tempering the revolutionary fervor they once shared. Then comes devastating news: Armaiti, who moved to America, is gravely ill and wants to see the old friends she left behind. For Laleh, reunion is a bittersweet reminder of unfulfilled dreams and unspoken guilt. For Kavita, it is an admission of forbidden passion. For Nishta, it is the promise of freedom from a bitter, fundamentalist husband. And for Armaiti, it is an act of acceptance, of letting go on her own terms.
Queen of America (2011) by Luis Alberto Urrea
Reviews: Los Angeles Times | The New York Times |The Seattle Times
After the bloody Tomóchic Rebellion, Teresita Urrea, beloved healer and “Saint of Cabora,” flees Mexico with her father to Arizona. Besieged by pilgrims and pursued by assassins, Teresita embarks on a journey through early twentieth-century America – New York, San Francisco, St. Louis. She meets immigrants and tycoons, royalty and ruffians, all waking to the new American century, as she decides what her own role in this modern future will be. This is the follow-up to The Hummingbird’s Daughter.
Among Others (2011) by Jo Walton
Reviews: RT Book Reviews | The Washington Post | io9
This is the story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment. As a child growing up in Wales, Morwenna Phelps played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled–and her twin sister dead…