Past Book Discussions
Tuesday, June 11, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
by Lisa Ko
In this emotionally charged story of cross-cultural adoption and complicated lives, a woman is deported from America to China, leaving behind an adolescent son who never knew what happened to his mother.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
The Distancers: An American Memoir
by Lee Sandlin
A beautiful story about the author’s German immigrant ancestors who settled on a farm in the Midwest. In the process of researching his genealogy he shakes his family tree and discovers what his ancestors endured and how they survived.
Tuesday, April 9, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
by Mary Doria Russell
A riveting and suspenseful tale of a Jesuit expedition to make first contact with the source of the mysterious music originating from another planet. The disastrous encounter leads Emilio Sandoz, the sole survivor, to question his faith and humanity.
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit
by Michael Finkel
The story of a 20-yr old Massachusetts man who disappeared into the woods of Maine to live there alone for almost three decades. A National Geographic Best Book of the Year.
(Life Stories; Hermits/Solitude)
Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon
by Robert Kurson
This lively account of the astonishing Apollo 8 mission to the moon provides an inside look at the experiences of the astronauts, their wives, and the NASA officials who all took a chance on this risky launch. The One Book, One Batavia 2019 selection.
(True Adventure; Inspiring)
The Truth and Other Lies
by Sascha Arango
It’s Henry Hayden’s name on the cover of his best-selling novels, but it’s his wife who writes them. Now his mistress is pregnant and Henry has to make a decision. “One wicked tale…with schemers all around” (Kirkus).
Rise: How a House Built a Family
by Cara Brookins
An inspiring true story of a family’s healing after the author escapes an abusive relationship but has nowhere to live. She does the unthinkable and builds a house from the ground up with her four children.
(Memoir; Life Stories)
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson
This searing indictment of the American justice system covers the inspiring story of Stevenson’s battle, as founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, to defend “hopeless cases,” freeing people from excessive punishment or wrongful convictions. The overarching narrative focuses on an African-American man on death row for killing a white woman despite credible evidence to the contrary.
(Memoir; Law; Social Reform; Engaging, touching)
by Larry Watson
In this spare, haunting page-turner, a Western sheriff arrests his physician brother for the abuse of Native American women.
by Ali Smith
This post-Brexit novel tells the story of friendship between Daniel, a century old and Elizabeth, born in 1984. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017.
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Young Madeline/Linda lives with her parents on a failed commune in the Minnesota woods. Her life changes when a young family moves in across the lake and she starts to babysit their 4 year old son. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017.
(Coming-of-Age Stories; Literary Fiction; Psychological Fiction)
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
In the village of King’s Abbot, suicide, a secret affair, blackmail, and murder create rumors and suspects. The famous detective Hercule Poirot must solve the murder of Roger Ackroyd. This book launched Agatha Christie’s career and made her a household name.
(Mystery; Suspenseful; Compelling
West with the Night by Beryl Markham
In this lyrical memoir, Markham vividly evokes her adventures as a groundbreaking pilot and horse trainer in Kenya in the early 20th century.
(Memoir; True Adventure)
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
The men of Alpha Company battle the enemy, miss the lives they left behind, and struggle with loneliness, rage, and fear in a testament to the devastating legacy of the Vietnam War. This modern classic is a painful, lyrical, and intensely personal account of the war.
(Literary Fiction; War Stories; Haunting)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba (One Book, One Batavia Selection)
In this inspiring memoir about perseverance and self-sufficiency, a teenager teaches himself to build a windmill to provide electricity to his small African village. A story of youthful exuberance, a love of learning, and hope in grim circumstances.
(Coming-of-age stories; Memoir)
American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar
A young Pakistani boy, whose parents left the fundamentalists behind when they came to America, finds transformation and a path to happiness through a family friend who shows him the beauty and power of the Quran.
(Coming-of-age stories; Psychological fiction)
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
This novel tells the story of three years in the life of a young Mexican American boy living in a small New Mexico farm village in the 1940’s. Ultima comes to live with his family and becomes his spiritual guide.
(Coming-of-Age Stories; Classic)
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
At age nine, author & poet Lucy Grealy was diagnosed with cancer and had to have a third of her jaw removed. This candid memoir tells how this major change to her appearance created a desire to be perfect and a need to be loved for who she was, despite pain and rejection.
(Autobiography; Moving; Candid; Lyrical)
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
This profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive domestic portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which family members struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
(Psychological fiction; Gripping; Thought-provoking)
LaRose by Louise Erdrich
A somber, lyrical novel about a man who honors his family’s Ojibwe traditions by giving his young son to his neighbors after accidentally killing their child in a hunting accident. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction.
(Literary Fiction; Complex)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
In this poignant and complex story, a precocious 9-year-old boy narrates his quest to find the lock for a key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center attack.
(Literary Fiction; Bittersweet; Quirky; Multiple Narrators)
Mozart’s Sister by Nancy Moser
A historical novel about Nannerl Mozart, the sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a musician herself. While her father pushes her brother to perform and gain the attention of the world, she wonders if her own dreams will ever be realized.
(Historical fiction; Introspective; Melancholy; Richly detailed)
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
Unforgettable choral-like narrative recounts the experiences of six Japanese “picture brides” who struggle to adjust to a new culture, raise families, and face the prospect of wartime internment.
(Literary fiction; Spare: Elegant)
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
Exploring her lifelong battle with mental illness, bestselling author Jenny Lawson is “at her snort-inducing funniest” in this book that also features Rory the raccoon, who “lives” in her office.
(Autobiography; Self-Depracating; Candid)
Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope by Wendy Holden
This moving book tells the compelling true story of three women who hid their pregnancies, gave birth in a Nazi concentration camp, and survived along with their infants.
(Nonfiction; History; Intense; Haunting; Descriptive)
The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
When the world’s leading Arthur Conan Doyle scholar is found murdered, recent Sherlock Holmes enthusiast society inductee Harold White takes up the search for the killer.
(Historical and Contemporary Timeline; Mystery; Parallel Narratives)
True Grit: A Novel by Charles Portis
In this rip-roaring adventure story, a no-nonsense teenage girl hires a tough U.S. marshal to help avenge the death of her father. Even if you don’t like Westerns, this novel’s sparkling, wry humor and engaging dialogue just might win you over.
(Western; Historical Fiction; Plainspoken; Unsentimental; Suspenseful)
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Introverts like to listen, read, and work on their own. In this book, Cain argues that it is the quiet ones that society undervalues the most, and she provides convincing examples of the significant contributions made by successful introverts.
The Whites: A Novel by Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt
High suspense and sharp prose highlight this electrifying police procedural. Billy Graves is marking time on night duty when he catches a case that threatens his career, friends, and family. A gritty, darkly humorous and compelling examination of justice and vengeance.
(Hardboiled mystery; Gritty; suspenseful)
The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery
A creature one would think has not much in common with us, the octopus species has remarkably different personalities. They are intelligent, affectionate, playful, and even sneaky (think Fido on the forbidden couch, after you leave the house). An enchanting National Book Award Finalist.
(Animal Behavior; Science)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Rosemary’s story begins when she is arrested; from there the tragedy at the heart of her family is slowly revealed. A moving tale of familial love and loss that examines the bonds of sisterhood. For full impact, avoid reading spoilers.
(Literary fiction; Moving; Thought-Provoking)
Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff
A fast-paced story of a transport plane, carrying 24 officers and enlisted men and women, that crashed in the South Pacific during World War II. Three survived, only to face a harrowing journey of survival in the jungle until they could be rescued.
(Adventure; History; Fast-Paced; Engaging)
The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan
This novel follows four female Harvard alums as they approach their 25th reunion. Harvard’s infamous Red Book of alumni updates features prominently, as the women write their own mini-biographies and struggle to make the story they tell the world reflect their reality.
(Contemporary Fiction; Women’s Relationships)
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
A creepy woods in Vermont and strange disappearances (past and present) give this literary novel about mothers and daughters an air of unsettling spookiness and suspense.
(Historical Fiction; Multiple Perspectives; Psychological Suspense)
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
In this classic mystery, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson take a case involving a mysterious death and a terrible family legend about a ghostly hound on the menacing moor. The One Book, One Batavia 2016 selection.
Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea
Inspired by the film The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli and her three friends leave their tiny Mexican village to bring home seven men to protect their home. As Nayeli marches north, she finds far more than she’d been looking for.
(Humorous Fiction; Multicultural; Rollicking Adventure)
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
The very strange Blackwoods—18-year-old Mary Katherine (who narrates the story), her sister Constance, and their uncle Julian—live in seclusion in their family mansion, scorned by the townspeople who fear them following a horrific event. A creepy contemporary classic.
(Classic; Psychological Suspense)
Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
Dramatic and heartbreaking, Moloka’i follows the life of Rachel Kalama. As a child she is sent to a leper colony, where she grows to adulthood and marries, gaining and losing friends and family along the way.
(Historical Fiction; Strong Sense of Place)
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard
The true story of Theodore Roosevelt’s incredible journey down one of the most dangerous rivers on earth. It is an unbelievable tale of exploration and incredible hardship as he and his men discover an unmapped tributary of the Amazon river.
(Adventure Stories; History; Compelling; Richly Detailed)
Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
Vintage Atwood, these brilliant and original nine tales epitomize the famous saying that “growing old ain’t for sissies.”
(Short Stories; Literary Fiction)
Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah
An amusing memoir by a diplomat’s wife, about her three years living in Paris. After her husband is sent to Iraq for a year-long assignment, Ann Mah adapts to her new life by immersing herself in the local culture, traveling around the country, and exploring the history and food of France.
(Biography/Memoir; Travelogue; Amusing; Candid)
The Report by Jessica Francis Kane
A quietly dramatic novel that imagines the cause of a real-life disaster in London, in which people were crushed and killed while trying to enter a Tube station for safety during the Blitz. Sad and thought-provoking.
May we be Forgiven by A. M. Homes
A darkly humorous book about two brothers, Harry and George, and how their lives are forever changed after a crisis. Harold is thrust into the new role as caregiver to his parents, father to his brother’s children all the while transforming his own life and not repeating the mistakes of his past.
(Literary Fiction; Darkly Humorous; Character-Driven)
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson
This riveting account of the search for John Wilkes Booth is unexpectedly suspenseful, given that we know the outcome of the chase. Swanson’s detailed narrative puts the reader on the scene, amidst the killers, conspirators, cavalry, and detectives. The One Book, One Batavia 2015 selection.
(True Crime; History)
The Humans by Matt Haig
An extra-terrestrial comes to Earth with a mission to save humans from themselves. Thought-provoking and darkly humorous.
(Dark Humor; Thought-Provoking; Speculative Fiction)
A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith
In 1929, Congress passed legislation to fund travel to France for mothers of fallen soldiers of World War I so they could visit their sons’ graves. This novel is the story of a group of mothers who made the emotional journey.
(Historical Fiction; Moving; Compelling)
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
Some cadavers lead quite interesting lives after death, as Mary Roach demonstrates in this witty and informative, funny yet respectful work of nonfiction.
(Science; Darkly Humorous)
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
When the Sisters brothers—professional hit men in the old West—agree to do “one last job,” things go horribly awry. Funny and irreverent and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. (How often does that happen with a Western?)
(Western; Mystery; Noir; Historical Fiction)
The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay
Set in the early 1900s a woman sets off on a journey to discover an archaeological treasure. History, politics and art play a role in this story of discovery that could not only change history, but also the lives of those involved.
(Historical Fiction; Suspense; Plot-Driven; Descriptive)
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Armageddon is coming, but demon Crowley and angel Aziraphale have become friends and Baby Satan was misplaced—now what? This collaboration by Brits Gaiman and Pratchett has been called “irreverently funny and unexpectedly wise.”
(Humorous Fantasy; British Humor; Upbeat)
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
The story of a young wife and mother living a quiet existence on a failing farm in Tennessee experiences something she cannot explain. Her discovery opens up her narrow world and causes her to be caught up in the center of a conflict and in a fight for the truth.
(Literary Fiction; Issue-Oriented; Sobering; Lush)
The Good Food Revolution by Will Allen
When Will Allen developed an urban farm in Milwaukee, he addressed several issues in one fell swoop: the urban food desert, public health, racism, and unemployment. Inspiring and informative. The One Book, One Batavia 2014 selection.
The Dinner by Herman Koch
Two couples meet for dinner at a trendy restaurant in Amsterdam to discuss a tragic incident involving their teenage children. A dark and controversial international bestseller of high suspense.
(Psychological Suspense; International Fiction; Disturbing; Twisted; Compelling)
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
In this suspenseful and intricately plotted novel, sixth grader Miranda finds herself in the midst of a mysterious situation involving secret notes and time travel. The 2010 Newbery Medal winner. Not just for kids.
(Children’s Fiction; Time Travel)
The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky
Matriarch Rosa Achmetowna narrates the story of three generations of women in this funny but dark black comedy that takes unexpected and increasingly tragic turns as the dysfunctional ties that bind become unraveled.
(Literary Fiction; International Fiction; Irreverent)
The End of Your Life Book by Will Schwalbe
The story of a son and his mother who create a book club after she is diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. Over the course of two years they discuss not only books, but life as well, and become closer.
(Autobiography/Memoir; Bittersweet; Moving; Reflective)
Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye
After years of estrangement, Noah visits his stoic father, a shipwreck survivor, near the end of his life. A somber, hushed story of a father and son, set on Minnesota’s north shore.
Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson
World-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson chronicles his life from early childhood in Ethiopia to his formative years in Sweden to his rousing culinary success in the United States.
(Memoir; Food Writing)
Arcadia by Lauren Groff
The story of a utopian community, told through the eyes of Bit, whose parents were founding members. A lyrical and beautifully told coming-of-age story.
(Literary Fiction; Coming-of-Age Stories)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
In this witty, timeless comedy of manners, the charming Bennet sisters seek the perfect husband. A sprightly commentary on society and marriage in Regency England. The One Book, One Batavia 2013 selection.
This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman
When a fifteen year old boy forwards a video to his friends sent to him by his girlfriend the resulting scandal threatens the calm and security of his family. Set in Manhattan this modern story reveals how one innocent mistake can be impacted by twenty-first century technology.
(Fiction; Multiple Perspectives; Character-Driven; Issue-Oriented)
Nemesis by Philip Roth
A polio epidemic is raging through Newark, New Jersey, in the summer of 1944, and fear of contagion and rumors about the spread of the disease keep many children inside. This book vividly captures the climate of fear and hostility the epidemic engenders and the toll that guilt takes on the psyche.
(Historical Fiction; Literary Fiction)
Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
A retired orthopedic surgeon is the prime suspect in the murder of her best friend, found dead in a Chicago brownstone, but she doesn’t know if she committed the crime. The early onset of Alzheimer’s disease is raising the question in her own mind of her innocence or guilt.
(Mystery; Psychological; Bleak; Haunting; Compelling)
Hiroshima by John Hersey
This understated, yet devastating, nonfiction account by journalist John Hersey tells the stories of six survivors of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen
Set in the Pacific Northwest during the 1918 flu epidemic, this novel is about love, family, friendship, patriotism, and community. Each becomes threatened when the town of Commonwealth, still uninfected, votes to quarantine itself against the deadly illness by posting guards at the single road that leads in and out of town.
(Historical Fiction; Character-Driven; Compelling)
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
As a child, Rose discovers she can taste the emotions of the person who cooked the food she eats—which often discloses people’s secrets. She narrates this story about her unusual family and their unexpected talents. This lyrical novel, infused with magical realism, captures the sweet and sour flavor of family life.
(Literary Fiction; Magical Realism)
The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Set in 1915 during the dawn of the hydroelectric power era in Niagara Falls, this novel tells the story of Bess and Tom and their commitment to each other, as well as the history and power of the falls.
(Historical Fiction; Richly-Detailed; Romantic)
A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
Written in 1955, this classic account of the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, remains one of the most popular books about the disaster. Walter Lord’s clear, concise storytelling allows present-day readers to feel the immediacy of the events of that terrible night 100 years ago. The One Book, One Batavia 2012 selection.
Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin
An old woman comes to Seoul to visit her children. At a busy train station she is separated from her husband and lost. While the family looks for their mother, they reflect on her life and their relationship to her. The novel represents the contrast between old and new in Korea and is the author’s first book to be translated to English.
(Literary Fiction; Domestic Fiction)
Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure by Julian Smith
Inspired by Victorian explorer Ewart Grogan, the author sets out on a similar journey, a 4,000 mile walk across Africa through eight countries. The stories of their travels are interwoven throughout the book, nearly a century apart, both inspired by history, adventure, and love.
(Travelogue; Strong Sense of Place; Candid; Conversational)
The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst
When Octavia learns that her estranged son has been arrested for murder, she abandons the manuscript of her latest book to reconcile with him. Their story is interspersed with fragments of Octavia’s books, with both their original and revised endings. Complex, layered, and emotionally charged.
Bliss, Remembered by Frank Deford
In this fictional memoir, 87-yr old Sydney is dying and decides to tell her son about an early part of her life, starting with her time as a swimmer when she attended the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and fell in love with an assistant to Leni Riefenstahl. Entertaining and thought-provoking.
(Historical Fiction; Sports and Romance)
Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II by Robert Kurson
The exciting, fast-moving, true adventure story of scuba divers’ 1991 discovery of a sunken German submarine off the New Jersey coast, and the years they spent unraveling the unidentified U-boat’s mysteries.
Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell
Following a family tragedy, Agnes Shanklin leaves behind her life as a spinster schoolteacher and begins an unforgettable journey. She travels to Egypt, with her newly adopted dog Rosie, and finds herself in the middle of the Cairo Peace Conference where she meets T.E. Lawrence and Winston Churchill.
(Historical Fiction; First Person Narratives; Nostalgic; Descriptive)
The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb
A feisty heroine, a remote island in the Great Lakes, an old mansion, and dark family secrets are the main ingredients in this contemporary ghost story with a gothic feel.
(Gothic Fiction; Ghost Stories)
The Faith Club: A Muslim, a Christian, a Jew—Three Women Search for Understanding by Ranya Idli by, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner
Three women set out to collaborate on an interfaith children’s book about the common traditions of their religions, but they soon realize they have to iron out their differences first. The “faith club” reveals prejudices, stereotypes and misconceptions about each other’s faith.
(Spirituality; Religion; Inspiring; Thought-Provoking; Candid)
Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry selected by Billy Collins
During his tenure as Poet Laureate of the United States, Billy Collins selected these short, clear poems for a project called Poetry 180, in which poems could be read aloud at high schools—just for the joy of hearing a poem each day. The One Book, One Batavia 2011 selection.
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
Retiring to the remote place in Norway that marked his coming-of-age, 67-yr. old Trond Sanders is forced to confront a long avoided past. A mesmerizing novel about memory and youth.
(Literary Fiction; Quiet and Contemplative)
Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult
Told in flashbacks, this story is about Paige O’Toole Prescott, a wife and new mother. She leaves her husband Nicholas and son Max to search for her own mother who abandoned her when she was five years old. Her journey examines the complexities of the human heart and the bond that exists between a mother and child.
(Introspective; Bittersweet; Moving)
The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
Which of the 23 varieties of mustard on the shelf will we purchase? Why? Would it be an easier and less stressful choice if there were only 3 varieties? This book discusses “the pitfalls of making up one’s mind” and the psychology of choice.
(Society and Culture; Psychology)
Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
Meghan Fitzmaurice is the successful host of a morning talk show, who seems to have it all—until she makes a terrible gaffe on national television. Her sister Bridget narrates this witty tale of two flawed sisters undergoing dramatic personal changes.
The United States of Arugula: The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution by David Kamp
A cultural history that chronicles the progression of fine dining in the United States: from boiled-to-death vegetables, gelatinous salads, and mass-produced white bread to sun-dried tomatoes, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, and artisanal whole –grain breads.
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
When the queen of England discovers the delights of reading books, her advisers worry—and with good cause: her ideas and behavior are changing… dramatically. This novel is a paean to the joys of reading.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
This Pulitzer Prize winning novel of interconnected stories follows the lives of folks in a small Maine town, including the rather blunt and opinionated school teacher of the title. Finely crafted and deeply emotional.
(Literary Fiction; Short Stories)
Playing with the Enemy by Gary W. Moore
As a teenager, Gene Moore was recruited by the Brooklyn Dodgers—but World War II interrupted his plans. In this heartfelt true story, Gary Moore describes his father’s unique experience in the Navy, playing baseball and guarding secret German prisoners, as well the challenges he faced during the war’s aftermath. The One Book, One Batavia 2010 selection.
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
After a horrific accident, a disfigured man lies in a burn ward planning his suicide. There, he meets an emotionally unhinged sculptress of grotesques who tells him they have known each other for 700 years . . .
(Psychological Fiction; Historical Fiction)
Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez: An Autobiography by Richard Rodriguez
In this memoir of his school years, Rodriguez writes beautifully, movingly, and provocatively about his love of learning, the loneliness of achieving an educational level far beyond that of his immigrant parents, and his perceptions of speaking English at school and Spanish at home.
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
Wilhelmina Upton returns to seemingly idyllic rural New York and her hippie-turned-born-again-Christian mother. Her journey of rediscovery reveals the trurth about her own twisted family tree and the monsters behind the facade,both literally and figuartively.
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Dana, a 26-year-old African-American woman living in the 1970s, is transported back to the antebellum South, where she experiences life in slavery. While she is able to return to her real life in 1976, periodically she is called back to the past to protect the young man who will become her own ancestor. A thought-provoking novel by an author who was awarded a Macarthur “genius” grant.
The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
The story of Quoyle, a loser who can’t seem to get anything right. After his wife’s unexpected exit, Quoyle is left in charge of their two young daughters. His feisty aunt Agnis persuades him to move back with her to the ancestral home in Newfoundland, where Quoyle attempts to get a fresh start. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award.
(Literary Fiction; Domestic Fiction)
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
While the basic story of the Pilgrims is widely known, the events of the five decades after their arrival at Plymouth are surprisingly unfamiliar, fascinating, and relevant today. In vivid detail, Nathaniel Philbrick brings to life the legendary and less well-known Pilgrims and Native Americans who forged a relationship that eventually was destroyed by war.
Felidae by Akif Pirinçci
An internationally acclaimed suspense novel that features the adventures of Francis, a house cat who, in trying to catch the murderer of his feline friends, meets up with a bizarre cat cult, a kitty computer whiz, and a perceptive Persian. Very dark.
(Psychological Fiction; Mystery)
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
Many of us have learned about the Civil War through history books, but this heroic and character-driven novel presents the Battle of Gettysburg through the compelling personalities of the men who fought there. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. The One Book, One Batavia 2009 selection.
A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield
This entertaining book traces the far-reaching impact of a single commodity, cochineal. A legendary red dye discovered by Spanish conquistadors in 1519, it produced the strongest, most vivid red color the old world had ever seen. Spain’s cochineal monopoly was worth a fortune, and the English, French, Dutch and other Europeans were determined to discover their own source of this elusive dye.
(History; Arts & Entertainment)
Folly by Laurie R. King
Rae, a woman who has suffered personal tragedy and teetered on the brink of mental instability, moves to a remote island to restore a peculiar, ruined house she inherited from her great-uncle. Rae believes she is alone on the island, but increasingly she feels as if she is being watched. As odd, menacing incidents begin to take place, she wonders if the danger is real or if it is only her imagination. A smart, intriguing, psychological novel.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
A Pulitzer Prize winning novel, this combelling book spans three generations. Told with humor and pathos, it tells the story of Cal, who grew into a man but was born a girl.
(Literary Fiction; Coming-of-Age Stories)
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
Three men, who were childhood friends until a terrible event ruptured their lives, live on the south side of Boston where they grew up. When one man’s daughter is murdered, his old friend, now a police detective, is assigned to the case and must investigate their other childhood friend. A bleak, suspenseful psychological thriller by an award-winning mystery author.
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
This award-winning short story collection presents universal characters attempting to understand the cataclysmic and benevolent events that occur in their lives. The stories’ locations are in India and the U.S.; their themes are global. Characters struggle to express their feelings of alienation, pain, and joy to themselves and others. Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN Hemingway Award for this collection. A short and superb read!
(Short Stories; Literary Fiction; Character-Driven)
The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team by Wayne Coffey
Was this the “greatest sports moment of the twentieth century?” Coffey, a sportswriter for New York’s Daily News, brings to life the players, the coach, and the game in Lake Placid that has been called “a miracle on ice.”
(Sports and Competition)
The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
“On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” Did this incident happen by chance, or was it a case of divine intervention? These and other questions will be topics for this book discussion. The Bridge of San Luis Rey won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928 and was chosen by the Modern Language Association as one of the best books of the 20th century.
(Historical Fiction; Classic)
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Through a warmly humorous, yet sad, story that alternates between the near future and the 14th century’s outbreak of the bubonic plague, Willis weaves the importance of human relationships and the successes and limitations of science. This time travel novel won all three major science fiction awards (Hugo, Nebula, and Locus). The One Book, One Batavia 2008 selection.
The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan
Do we choose what to plant in our gardens? Or do the plants choose us? Learn about four common plants and the human desires they inspire: the apple and sweetness; the tulip and beauty; marijuana and intoxication; and the potato and control. Pollan weaves an interesting tale with observations from philosophy, natural history, botany, and his own gardening experience.
Emma by Jane Austen
Emma Woodhouse – pretty, rich, bright, and very self-assured – lives an undisturbed and well-ordered life. She’s known as a matchmaker and thinks her ideas about romance and life are ideals everyone should follow. With wit and irony, Austen describes a young woman who discovers that life is not tidy, and is, instead, unpredictable and sometimes painful.
An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg
A heartbreaking, yet heartwarming, novel about family and courage. When a young widow seeks refuge in her Wyoming hometown, the welcome she receives from her father-in-law Einar is decidedly cold. Meanwhile, her young daughter becomes fast friends with Einar’s old friend, a man wounded by a bear attack. This novel’s seemingly simple prose brings the characters to life.
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
This lyrical, award-winning novel features an international cast of well-drawn characters and a riveting plot. When guerrillas take hostages at an embassy party in an unnamed South American country, the following months of captivity result in some surprising relationships.
The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor
Nine-year-old Lucy Gault has run away from home. The repercussions of her childish act result in unrelenting grief and emotional turmoil for her family and herself, and finally forgiveness. No registration is required.
Strange Fits of Passion by Anita Shreve
A gripping novel about a woman who escapes her abusive husband and arrives in a small coastal town in Maine, along with her infant daughter. Just as she begins to make a new life for herself, she is forced to make a terrible choice.
Rabbit, Run by John Updike
John Updike has created a character named Harry Angstrom, a.k.a. Rabbit. Rabbit is a liar and is lazy. He’s also an adulterer and accepts no responsibility for his family. He’s in a dead-end job and wants sympathy from everyone. Yet the reader likes him. Find out why.
(Literary Fiction; Modern Classic)
There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing up in the Other America by Alex Kotlowitz
This bleak, powerful, true story describes two years in the lives of two boys growing up in Chicago’s Henry Horner Homes, where they live amidst poverty and violence. The One Book, One Batavia 2007 selection.
Spilling Clarence by Anne Ursu
How would you feel if you could remember everything that had ever happened to you? A fire at a pharmaceutical factory releases a drug into the air, and the citizens of the small college town of Clarence, Minnesota, find out.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Married three times and tried for the murder of one husband, Janie Crawford is the colorful and independent protagonist in this novel. This book is about achieving a strong sense of self and a zest for living.
(Psychological Fiction; Modern Classic)
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
Krakauer was on assignment for Outside magazine to write about the commercialization of Everest expeditions when he became a witness to a tragedy of epic proportions. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction.
(Adventure Writing; First Person Narrative)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Jay Gatsby is rich, famous and has everything he wants, except for one thing. The American jazz age at its finest.
(Literary Fiction; Modern Classic)
The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel
In this compassionate, witty novel, Langston abandons graduate school and returns to her small Midwestern town, where she meets the unusual new minister and two troubled, orphaned girls.
E=mc2: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis
The wonderfully readable story of the personalities and fascinating behind-the-scenes developments that led to Einstein’s formulation of the E=mc2 equation.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
In this subdued, introspective novel, Stevens—the consummate butler for all his adult life—embarks on a rare vacation. During his drive, he finds himself reflecting on his many years of unfailing service to Lord Darlington – and wondering at his own ability look past the terrible truth about the man he served.
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
A remote New England village sets the scene for this tragic love story. One of Wharton’s masterpieces and an American classic.
(Literary Fiction; Modern Classic)
The Giver by Lois Lowry
This Newbery Medal-winning novel initially appears to depict an ideal futuristic society. Then twelve-year-old Jonas receives his life’s assignment as the Receiver of Memory. His daily meetings with the Giver, who conveys memories of life before the establishment of their regimented society, gradually lead Jonas to question their way of life. A thought-provoking novel about freedom, community, family, and love. The One Book, One Batavia 2006 selection.
(Children’s Fiction; Dystopian Fiction)
The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway
This intriguing memoir takes us from a little girl’s life on an isolated sheep farm, through a difficult coming-of-age in Sydney, up to the author’s decision to leave Australia for graduate school in the United States. Conway became the first woman president of Smith College, and has also written True North and A Woman’s Education.
Sula by Toni Morrison
An engrossing story about two African-American childhood friends, Sula and Nell, and the overwhelming problems they face as adults.
(African-American Fiction; Literary Fiction; Bittersweet)
Anagrams by Lorrie Moore
In this complex, inventive, and surprising novel, the characters’ identities change with every twist of the plot.
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
David Lurie, a college professor, finds his life dangerously transformed when he begins an affair with a student. This searing novel by Nobel Prize winner, J. M. Coetzee, speaks to the momentous changes that have occurred in post-aparthied South Africa.
(Psychological Fiction; Thought-Provoking)
A Lesson before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
Jefferson, an African American youth, is wrongly accused of murder and is sentenced to die. While in jail, a former friend, with personal problems of his own, visits Jefferson and together the two learn how to oppose and defy the outcome of their lives.
(Historical Fiction; Character-Driven)
The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard
Shirley Hazzard took two decades to follow up her National Book Critics Circle Award winner The Transit of Venus. The magnificent work she delivered (coincidentally during this millennium’s real transit of Venus) is set in post-World War II Japan. Learning to dream again, after such a great fire as Hiroshima and the Wars in general, takes much more than planning. Ms. Hazzard knows.
(Australian Fiction; Atmospheric)
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
This engrossing book interweaves the fascinating story of the building of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago with the creepy true tale of serial killer Dr. H.H. Holmes. The story alternates between the architects’ challenges and the murderer’s plotting, and the suspense builds…
(True Crime; History)
The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason
This evocative novel tells about three generations of women. The protagonist, Ruth, struggles to understand her childhood loss under the empathic guidance of her Aunt Sylvie.
(Domestic Fiction; Psychological Fiction)
While I Was Gone by Sue Miller
In this spellbinding novel, a woman is torn between her love for her husband and a growing obsession with a man who reappears many years after she knew him during a secret phase in her past.
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
This is the first novel that propelled Barbara Kingsolver into literary prominence. Taylor Greer, the first of Kingsolver’s unique main characters, is poor, but spunky and open to life and all its challenges. This novel will make your spirits soar — guaranteed!
Memento Mori by Muriel Spark
“Remember you must die!” A group of elderly friends are haunted by this warning from an unknown source. Each one has past secrets they’d prefer to forget but must face again. This sparse story is just one example of Muriel Spark’s dark yet hilarious novels. Mystery, suspense, and comedy — all rolled into one! Don’t miss the book and its discussion!
(Satirical Fiction; Modern Classic)
Of Beetles and Angels by Mawi Asgedom
In this inspiring, heartfelt memoir, a young Ethiopian-Eritrean man describes his family’s arrival in the United States as refugees, their struggles to adjust to a new life in Wheaton, IL, and his own motivation to succeed that led to his graduation from Harvard. The One Book, One Batavia 2004 selection.
Headlong by Michael Frayn
When a frustrated philosopher uncovers what he believes is a lost painting by Bruegel in a boorish neighbor’s basement, he embarks on a quest to separate the work from its owner.
Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr
In this lyrical novel, a retired American couple moves to a Mexican village to re-open an old copper mine. This quiet, character-driven story brings to life many of the town’s residents, who are perplexed by the strange ways of their new neighbors.
Lying Awake by Mark Salzman
Sister John of the Cross, an elderly nun, experiences a series of dazzling visions, but she is confronted with a difficult choice between her spiritual gifts and curing the powerful headaches that accompany her visions.
Talking to the Dead by Helen Dunmore
Talking to the Dead is a fast-paced story about two sisters’ shared childhood and the circumstances surrounding a tragic event that occurred when they were young. Dunmore gradually reveals each sister’s impression of the tragedy and then leaves it up to the reader to decide which impression is the true one. This is a haunting tale of sibling rivalry, adultery, and murder.
Larry’s Party by Carol Shields
Larry Weller is an ordinary guy whose life, to his surprise, twists and turns like the garden mazes he designs. In this quietly triumphant novel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Carol Shields gives us a sympathetic portrait of a Baby Boomer adjusting to society’s changing expectations of men.
All Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg
Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times, reminisces about his cruel yet triumphant southern childhood in All Over But the Shoutin’. Recalling the influence of his alcoholic father and his courageous mother, Bragg writes with lucidity, humor, and honesty. This is a memoir you’ll be glad you read.
Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
Each person who visits Claudia Hampton at her deathbed reveals another aspect of this flawed, yet fascinating, woman’s life. This quiet, nostalgic Booker Prize winner raises questions about the complexity of human relationships and memory.
Felicia’s Journey by William Trevor
This dark thriller is about a naïve and vulnerable Irish girl who meets up with a middle-aged psychopath.
The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
When Charles Baxter wanders to a park during a sleepless night, he encounters a neighbor who tells him the first of several tales of love that interweave to create this luminous novel.
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Inman, a wounded Confederate soldier, deserts the army and travels across North Carolina to reunite with his lover. This is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a page turner complete with adventure, war, and love.
(Historical Fiction; Multiple Perspectives)
In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien
Did he kill her, or didn’t he? In this complex, layered, disturbing novel, a politician and his wife escape to the woods to recover, after a horrific secret from his past is uncovered. A master magician who had managed to make his past vanish, he is suspected of murder when his wife disappears.
(Literary Fiction; Psychological Suspense)
2001-2002 Season (partial season)
Paradise News by David Lodge
Paradise News tells the humorous story of Bernard Walsh, naïve and middle-aged, who while being a dutiful son, discovers new excitement and love in a Hawaiian paradise.
Disobedience by Jane Hamilton
Narrated with pitch-perfect sarcasm and sadness by the teenage son who discovers his mother’s affair, this is the absorbing, bittersweet story of a family silently ruptured by infidelity—even as the pre-teen daughter and her father joyfully pursue their passion for Civil War reenactment.
An American Childhood by Annie Dillard
With wit and irony, Annie Dillard lovingly recalls her unconventional upbringing in An American Childhood. Learning to fly, playing poker, collecting and drawing insects and reciting psalms were just some of the experiences that influenced this brilliant writer and naturalist.
She Walks These Hills by Sharyn McCrumb
A haunting, homespun, literary mystery set on the lovingly evoked Appalachian Trail, where modern-day travelers encounter the ghost of a young woman who was kidnapped in 1779.