Book Clubs are a lot of fun at Sunriver Books & Music, we have a great group. Monday nights we look forward to getting together to discuss books. Book Clubs help meet other people in the community who are passionate readers. Refreshments are served.
There are five lively active book clubs at Sunriver Books & Music; The Fiction Book Club, The Classics Book Club, The Mystery Book Club, The Non Fiction Book Club, and Travel Essay Book Club. Meetings are at the bookstore on Monday evenings at 6:30.
At the end of the year we vote on the best of the book club selections. The winners are listed on this website under Book Club Favorites. We have several themed months.
Here are the Book Club selections at Sunriver Books & Music for 2012.
The Non-Fiction Book Club welcomes 2012 on January 2nd with a discussion of Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History Of A Private Life. Bryson lives in a big old former Church of England Rectory built in 1851. In his charming but eccentric way he takes the reader on a room by room tour of his abode. And being Bryson, each room he enters offers the opportunity for a digression onto some particularly interesting but arcane historical fact. Bryson is an unlikely combination, both wonderfully funny and amazingly informative. You can learn quite a bit reading a Bill Bryson book, and laugh quite a bit too.
The first Mystery Book Club meeting of 2012 is January 9th for a discussion of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. Larry was an outcast in high school, one of the dorky kids who were never part of the popular crowd. He is one happy guy when pretty Cindy agrees to go to a drive in movie with him. It will be the last time anyone sees Cindy. Over 20 long years go by, Larry is the town mechanic but shunned by the community. Now another girl has gone missing. Larry is the prime suspect and his childhood friend is the constable charged with investigating the crime. It is time to uncover the painful secrets of the past.
January 16th Travel Essay Book Club, Most Beautiful Walks by John Baxter
January 16th the Travel Essay Book Club discusses The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris by John Baxter. Let the author guide you through memorable walks in the City of Light, a city that has been home to many a giant of the literary world. Baxter tells enchanting stories of the literary greats, amusing anecdotes of his life, and gives glorious descriptions of the city walks. He even gives travel trips on Paris at the end. What could be more fun than spending an evening walking around Paris with John Baxter?
The Fiction Book Club discusses Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier on January 23rd. This is historical fiction based on real characters. It could just as easily have been titled remarkable women, the story is about two women and an unlikely friendship set in the early 1800’s. The Philpot sisters moved to Lyme Regis when their brother took a wife. He no longer had room for his 3 spinster sisters and remaining in London would be too expensive so they were banished to a smaller, cheaper town. Elizabeth Philpot developed an interest in the fish fossils found on the beach. Mary Anning was a precocious young girl at the time, with an uncanny talent for finding fossils, She had the eye for it, could spot them in the unstable hillsides thereabouts. They were an odd pair for a friendship to form; Elizabeth was middle class with an inquiring mind, good education, and a modest but reliable income. Mary was from the lower class, with a father who saddled the family with ruinous debt, few prospects, and no education. Their common interest in fossils formed a bond. Mary Anning made amazing discovers that started discussions about extinction years before Charles Darwin.
January 30th Classics Book Club, The Virgin & The Gypsy by DH Lawrence.
Yvette and Lucille return reluctantly from school to their father the Rector and their dank, dark home in the rectory. They find life stultifying and yearn for something more. A chance encounter with a gypsy begins a sexual awakening in Yvette. She sees in the handsome gypsy a life with fresh air and freedom, a life totally different from the narrow expectations of her own class.
Febuary 6th Travel Essay Book Club, City of Falling Angels by John Berendt.
February 6th the Travel Essay Book Club discusses City of Falling Angels by John Berendt. Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, all blowsy, shimmering color, twisting alleys, grand piazzas, and turquoise blue canal surrounded by decadently gorgeous mansions. John Berendt arrived in 1996 a short while after a conflagration with flames reaching to the heavens ruined the famed opera house, La Fenice. Known for his dark, moody book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, he thought there might be a book in this story too. Have you ever visited a gorgeous place and thought why not stay a while? John acted on that impulse thus giving us a fascinating book. It is the story of the fire, the story of some of Venice’s residents, and an intimate portrait of a truly beautiful city. He tells how the widow and estate of Ezra Pound was probably bilked by the wife of an employee of the Guggenheim museum. The Save Venice foundation is rife with internal strife. A maestro of glassblowing creates wildly imaginative art commemorating the destruction of La Fenice. We should have plenty to discuss!
Febuary 13th Mystery Book club, A Faithful Place by Tana French.
February 13th the Mystery Book Club discusses Faithful Place by Tana French. Dysfunctional is a good description of Frank’s family. Motivated to get out early in life, Frank and his teenage sweetheart arrange to rendezvous and run away together. He waits at their meeting place until it is clear she is not going to show up. Frank hoofs off alone and twenty years later is a homicide detective. Always assuming that Rosie had abandoned him, he is shocked when her suitcase is found in an old vacant house. Soon buried bones give proof that Rosie never made it away from Faithful Place. The writing is excellent, the story compelling.
Febuary 20th Non Fiction Book Club: Author Led Discussion of Massacred for Gold by Greg Noakes.
The Pacific Northwest is the site of the worst massacre of Chinese in US history. Right here in Hell’s Canyon by a bend in the Snake River up to 34 Chinese miners were murdered. Worse yet, some of the killers were mere school boys, teenagers lured toward easy money and a quick kill by a nefarious horse thieving rancher. It is best not to turn our backs on the past lest the same mistakes are perpetuated. Prejudice and hate are sorrowful emotions. Those Chinese miners could have been robbed without taking their lives, but they were hated for being different. The taking of those lives would stay with those kids forever. Might it be a good idea to reflect on the cost to our souls of racial hatred?
Massacred for Gold brings to light the contribution of Chinese workers. They were integral to the building of our railroads, working harder and for less money than US citizens. These men were willing to hang off cliffs to set dynamite charges, work every day, and endure horrid conditions. Unlike other groups of immigrants, the Chinese wanted to make enough money to help their families then return home. They missed their homeland and loved ones ferociously. Instead of being thanked for their hard work, appreciated for their sacrifices, they were hated. Racial hatred fueled an environment of despair for the Chinese. They were ridiculed, beaten, robbed without any hope of justice or protection.
Gold mining was beyond the means of the Chinese when the claims were paying but as the claims played out the Chinese came in to labor extracting the last reluctant grains of gold. The claim the massacred men had been working was thought to be one of the better claims mined by Chinese. They had been working about a year, so there was gold to be taken. The Chinese were sitting ducks for their killers. Sheer cliff walls and fast flowing water gave them nowhere to run. Hells Canyon, the Snake River, and the Imnaha River Gorge is a forbidding remote landscape. It was a lonely place to die so far from their homeland at the hand of outlaws who would never pay for their crime.
Febuary 27th Fiction Book Club, A Good Year by Peter Mayle
February 27th the Fiction Book Club will have fun discussing A Good Year by Peter Mayle. Max was a wizard in the labyrinth games of the financial world, but work has not been going too great lately. Uncle Henry’s estate in Provence was a haven for Max as a little boy. Uncle Henry leaves Max the estate but there are complications. When Max arrives to take over he discovers the wine produced on the estate is awful. And there is another claimant, an unknown relative, who may have a stake in the property too. This is a frolicsome story that should keep the book club entertained.
March 5th Mystery Book Club, Heresy by SJ Parris
March 5th the Mystery Book Club discusses Heresy by S.J. Parris a story full of real characters. Giordano Bruno ran afoul of the Inquisition. Bruno held such outlandish beliefs as the earth revolving around the sun, imagine. Truth being stranger than fiction, he escaped Italy and after a time landied in England where he became useful to Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. Eventually the Inquisition will catch up with Bruno, burning him at the stake in 1600. This heretic monk is too interesting for Parris to resist, he was perfect for crafting a mystery series. In Heresy, the first in the series, Bruno travels to Oxford in1583 to debate John Underhill while spying at the behest of Walsingham who fears Catholic plots to overthrow the queen. Soon after Bruno arrives a grisly murder raises the stakes. The next book in the series featuring Giordano Bruno is Prophecy, it is scheduled to release in paperback on May 1st. The third in the series, Sacrilege, should release in hardback April 10th.
March 12th Non Fiction Book Club, Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
March 13th the Non Fiction Book Club discusses Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. One of the most fascinating characters in history, Cleopatra lived big. Married off to her 10 year old brother and co-ruler Ptolemy, she attempted to oust him and was exiled. An allegiance with Rome could solve her problems and put her back on the throne. Cleopatra had herself stuffed into a sack, smuggled back into her own palace, and presented to Julius Caesar. Cleopatra was an astute ruler, a politician who knew the value of spectacle, and an incredibly intelligent woman. After Caesar’s death she captivated Marc Anthony and continued her allegiance with Rome. Schiff is a masterful wrtier, she presents us with a fascinating biography of one of history’s strongest women.
March 19th Fiction Book Club, Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie.
March 19th the Fiction Book Club discusses Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie. Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for a screaming guitar. Now Johnson is looking for redemption, he heard of a spiritual woman on the Spokane Reservation who might be able to help him. Thomas Builds The Fire delivers Johnson to the woman and inherits the guitar. Oh baby does this guitar want to play! Possessed of this wickedly good instrument Thomas forms a rock and blues band, Coyote Springs, and soon they are traveling to Seattle and New York. But there is a price with guitars gifted from the devil. Funny and poignant this is a blistering portrayal of life as a Native American. Sherman Alexie is one of our most talented authors, the guy can write!
March 26th Travel Essay Book Club, Modoc by Ralph Helfer
March 26th the Travel Essay Book Club discusses Modoc by Ralph Helfer. Bram and Modoc were born on the same day, the boy and the elephant would form a bond so strong it would last the rest of their lives. The early years in Germany are good, but trouble comes when Bram’s father dies and the circus is sold to an unscrupulous man. Modoc and Bram have many adventures, a shipwreck, hiding out in the teak forests of India, attack by rebels, fire, and more. They travel far and wide, but overall this is a book about the remarkable bond between a man and an elephant who endure cruelty and hardship but stay true to one another.
April 2nd Mystery Book Club, Tourist by Olin Steinhauer.
April 2nd the Mystery Book Club’s selection is The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer. If you like fast paced action in the spy genre, this series might be just the ticket. Milo is a “Tourist” for the CIA, sent to hot spots where wet work is likely to be involved. As jobs go, this one is hard on the psyche and has taken its toll. Milo’s name changes when it suits the company, he is sent all over the globe like a hyper active ping pong ball, his life isn’t worth a plugged nickel, as the book opens suicide looks like a feasible option. Then his fortune changes, he falls in love, lands a desk job and a few years pass with Milo settled and happy. Milo has been chasing an assassin named The Tiger. Catching the man starts a series of events that goes though many twists and turns with plenty action endangering everything.
April 9th Classics Book Club, Enchanted April by Elizabeth VonArnim
April 9th the Classics Book Club discusses The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim, one of my favorite books. Lottie Wilkens is a young wife married to a lawyer. He is all stiff upper lip British; wanting things done just so and hoping his wife will be an asset to his business. But Lottie doesn’t fit well into such a strict and narrow life; she cannot seem to do things right. It is 1920’s Britain, rainy and grey. Lottie stopped at her women’s club to read the paper on her shopping rounds. She sees an ad on a house in Italy for the month of April. It starts her dreaming, she thinks if only she could have this little time away, one month, to be on her own and free then she could endure trying to be a better wife, to do things just right. A month in Italy seems so impossible. As she prepares to leave, Lottie sees Rose Arbuthnot reading the same ad. Although they do not know one another well, Lottie approaches Rose and the two dream of Italy. Eventually four unhappy women go to the house in bella Italy. Who can stay unhappy with all the glorious sunshine, blue sea, and fragrant gardens? Italy’s enchantment works its magic. Everything in their lives changes and nothing changes. I highly recommend this lovely book.
April 16th Fiction Book Club, Room by Emma Donoghue
April 16th the Fiction Book Club discusses Room by Emma Donoghue. The only world 5 year old Jack knows is one small room. The only people in his world are his mother and the man who has held her captive since he abducted her as a 19 year old college student. Jack’s mother tries to keep him safe, but it is growing more difficult. The man who comes in the night is acting more erratically; he has lost his job and may become even more unstable. Jack’s mother knows she must somehow get her child to safety. It is frightening; the man already injured her over an earlier escape attempt. The novel is told through 5 year old Jack’s perspective. He thinks his room constitutes the world, that the images on the television are all fantasy. Donoghue is a masterful storyteller; she ratchets up the tension as the necessity to escape becomes unavoidable, and then immerses the reader in Jack’s confusion when his senses are overwhelmed by the real world.
April 23rd Non Fiction Book Club, Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilderson.
April 23rd the Non-Fiction Book Club discusses The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. Between 1915 and 1970 almost six million blacks fled the south in search of better opportunity. Wilkerson focuses on three individuals in telling her story to give this overwhelming, huge exodus a human face. In 1937 Ida Mae Gladney’s cousin was almost beaten to death after being falsely accused of stealing a white man’s turkeys. Ida Mae left Mississippi heading north. In 1945 George Swanson Starling’s Florida employer was arranging a “neck tie” party. George headed to Harlem. In 1953 Robert Foster’s opportunities were limited in Louisiana, but in California he prospered becoming Ray Charles personal physician. Wilkerson weaves in the details of millions of people setting out to make better lives. Isabel Wilkerson is the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. The Warmth of Other Suns was inspired by her parent’s migration.
April 30th, Deschutes County Library Novel Idea.
April 30th we discuss the Deschutes County Library’s Novel Idea book, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. Katie and Rose are young and full of themselves, ready to conquer New York. New Year’s Eve 1937 Katie and Eve head out into a New York rife with opportunity and adventure with only $3 between them. Tinker enters as 1938 dawns, elegant and handsome he sets the girls dreaming and shows them a good time. Decades later Katey finds a picture of Tinker while perusing an art exhibit with her husband.
May 7th Travel Essay Book Club, Times Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer
Travel Essay Book Club discusses Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer on May 7th. Mercer fled Canada, abandoning his career as a crime reporter, after running into a spot of trouble with a source. He landed in Paris a sad, confused young man lacking a plan for the future. Shakespeare & Co gave him a safe haven and an opportunity for renewal. The bookstore sheltered authors, providing them a place to get their bearings, live cheaply, and write. This is a lively, entertaining story of a man, a city, and a remarkable bookstore.
May 14th Mystery Book Club, Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman
Mystery Book Club discusses Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman on May 14th. Meg was living the good life with a snazzy big house in an upscale neighborhood, private school for her teenage daughter and an attractive husband. His sudden death leaves her alone, without funds, and wondering how she is going to cope. Meg accepts a teaching position in a small private school with an emphasis on art, hoping it will be a wholesome place to raise her daughter. But instead of a safe haven, she has found a web of dangerous secrets. Lily Eberhardt, one of the schools founders and an artist Meg very much admires, fell to her death along a slippery path near a raging river in 1947. Soon after Meg’s arrival another body will be claimed on the path. Dark and moody, full of artful illusions, this one will keep you guessing.
May 21st Fiction Book Club, The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella
Fiction Book Club discusses The Wedding Officer by Antony Capella on May 21st. Captain James Gould is posted to Naples with very strict instructions; keep the British troops from marrying all those pretty Italian women. WWII was rough on Italy, the Italian women were hungry, penniless, and without any good prospects for making a living. Most of them had lost family to the war. For many of them, marrying a serviceman is the only way to avoid starvation or prostitution. Livia Pertini is a maestro in the kitchen; she has cooking in her blood. She is also easy on the eyes. Not a bad combination. Throw in a feisty Italian temperament for spice and you have an intriguing woman. When she is hired as the cook for the British Officers James begins to find his duty less clear. After all, what is wrong with marrying a gorgeous Italian? The trials of living with war are not ignored in the story. Italians fought courageously in the underground to rid their country of fascism. Capella does an excellent job of conveying the feeling of a country suffering through WWII. He also gives us a lovely story about a man and a woman. And you will learn of one of the Allies sillier ideas for winning against the Germans.
May 28th Non Fiction Book Club, Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Non-Fiction Book Club discusses Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali on May 28th. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is under threat of death for producing a film exposing domestic violence against Muslim women. The threat is not idle, her co-producer Theo van Gogh was murdered. This extraordinary story tells the journey of her life. Born in Somalia where her father was jailed by the ruling junta while she was a toddler. The family traveled from Somalia to Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia to Kenya, looking towards a day it would be safe to return to Somalia. Ayaan is forthcoming about the genital mutilation she suffered, the same mutilation inflicted on innocent young girls in her culture. She tells of her growth from devout Muslim to atheist. She explains her growing emancipation as a woman, her rejection of a system that made her subservient and downtrodden. Ayaan Hirsi Ali left her culture and her family behind, fleeing into Holland where she built a life and found her political voice. This is not a treatise against Islam; rather it is a statement on the way women are marginalized and the dangers of believing without question.
June 4th the Mystery Book Club begins our Month of New England with a discussion of Stephan L. Carter’s The Emperor of Ocean Park. Carter is supremely suited to write this story. A Yale Law professor who once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Carter is well acquainted with the world he creates. The story opens with Talcott Garland, a law professor at a New England University, facing the aftermath of his famous father’s death. Judge Oliver Garland was nominated to the US Supreme Court but his nomination went down in flames when a connection to an underworld figure was revealed. Oliver left his house in Washington to his daughter, his tickets to the Redskins to his eldest son, and his vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard to Talcott. Before the funeral is over Talcott senses trouble brewing. His sister is positive their father was murdered and Ziegler, the underworld figure who torpedoed his father’s chances at the Supreme Court, is certain Oliver left instructions on certain “arrangements”. Talcott’s ambitious, mercurial wife Kimmer has hopes of being nominated as judge on to the Court of Appeals. As the puzzle deepens, the controversy surrounding Oliver has a deleterious influence on her chances for nomination. The pace is languid as Carter slowly brings together each element of the story. He takes the time to let the reader get to know Talcott.
A Month of New England.
June 11th the Fiction Book Club discusses Empire Falls by Richard Russo, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Empire Falls Maine fell on hard times; the three mills closed, unemployment is high. Like many mill towns, Empire Falls has not been able to wrest itself from the subtle control of the mill owner. Although no longer running the mills, there is always the hope of reopening. Still very wealthy, Mrs. Whiting owns most of the businesses in town and is not suffering from her mills’ closure in the way town’s residents do. Miles has been under her thumb since he left college to come home to care for his mother. Twenty years on he is still managing and cooking at the Empire Grill for Mrs. Whiting, kept in line by her promise to will the restaurant to him. The theme of family and generations runs through the story. Miles’ reprobate father, Max, is always getting into trouble and avoids any responsibility. Miles loves his daughter, Tick, is very proud of the girl. His wife is leaving him for a slick health club owner. He has all these issues swirling around in his life and is making little progress in resolving them until a secret and a tragedy force him to get his life in order.
A Month of New England,
June 16th the Classics Book Club discusses the Human Stain by Phillip Roth. In the 1990’s the nation was consumed by allegations and scandal against a President, it set a tone in the land. Coleman Silk is forced out of his position as a Classics Professor at a small Massachusetts college over allegations that he is a racist. He believes the very public scandal contributes to his wife’s death and he severs all ties with the college. Coleman takes up with a woman decades younger and worlds away from his educational level or lifestyle. Once again he is in a public scandal when their affair is revealed. But Coleman has a secret unknown to his harassers.
Our Month of New England’s book club selections finishes with the Travel Essay Book Club’s discussion of Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick on June 25th. Philbrick brings the voyage of the Mayflower into focus, with his knowledge of all things nautical he lets the reader experience what crossing the ocean would have been like in the 1600’s. These pilgrims were deeply religious people who banded together to form a community based on their beliefs with a desire to live in solitude and isolation. Their experience is not so gentle. North America was already occupied, the intent of the pilgrims to convert the natives to Christianity and their sense of superiority lead inevitably to conflict and violence.
July 2nd Mystery Book Club, Junkyard Dog by Craig Johnson.
July 2nd the Mystery Book Club discusses Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson. Junkyard Dog is beautifully written, tightly plotted, and funny enough to make me laugh myself witless. The opening scene should leave you breathless. Sherriff Walt Longmire’s has trouble on his hands. George Stewart’s dump is smack dab up against a multi-million dollar housing development. The developer would prefer his customers gaze stay on the majestic mountains not the smelly dump next door. He wants the dump to go away, big time. Tensions run high. Deputy Santiago is suffering a case of the willies after nearly being filleted in Another Man’s Moccasins. Walt is afraid he will lose a good deputy. Throw in a version of Romeo and Juliet for the older set and you have a heady brew of mystery, greed and passion. For writing, plot, and the joy of reading, this one cannot be beat. Craig Johnson rocks!
July 9th Travel Essay Book Club, Menagerie Manor by Gerald Durrell
July 9th the Travel Essay Book Club discusses Menagerie Manor by Gerald Durrell, OBE. This is the 3rd of his books discussed in Travel Essay Book Club. From an early age Durrell was fascinated with nature. He grew up (although it is amazing he survived childhood) to be a leading conservationist and the founder of a zoo on the Isle of Jersey. His love of the animal kingdom caused all kinds of havoc in family life and in his zoo. Durrell is an amazing man; he brought passion and care to saving endangered species and trying to give zoo animals more dignified and enriched lives. He is not the only family member with literary talent, his brother Lawrence was a celebrated author. Gerald Durrell’s books are full of observations on natural life, hilarious stories, and are great fun to read.
July 16th Fiction Book Club, Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.
July 16th the Fiction Book Club discusses my favorite book by Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible. Kingsolver spent 1963 in the Congo as a child; her physician father was committed to helping people without access to medical care. She sets her novel against the dramatic backdrop of tremendous political unrest as the Belgium Congo struggled for independence. A missionary takes his family from the American South to the Congo in 1959: they are ill prepared for the culture or geography of Africa. The story is told through the viewpoints of the four daughters and mother, but at its heart it examines the hubris of a man bent on converting an unwilling indigenous people to his hardline beliefs. The family arrives in Africa with a set of preconceived notions about the people and country that are soon challenged by reality. Kingsolver captures the voice of these women as their lives change and their consciousness expands. It is a funny, wise, sad, wonderful story.
July 23rd Classics Book Club, The Last Go Round by Ken Kesey.
June 23rd the Classics Book Club discusses Last Go Round by Ken Kesey. The Pendleton Roundup is the setting for the last of Ken Kesey’s novels. He spins an entertaining yarn populated with many famous western characters, like Buffalo Bill Cody, around the real episode of a 1911 competition between George Fletcher, an African American cowboy, Jackson Sundown, a Nez Pierce bronco buster, and John Spain, a southerner. It is an entertaining novel focusing on a bit of Oregon history.
July 30th Non Fiction Book Club, To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild.
July 30th the Non Fiction Book Club discusses To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild. To most people, the reasoning behind the hostilities in WWI is hard to understand. The human carnage is well documented and the causes of the hostilities are still being debated today. What Hochschild brings to the narrative is the large, vociferous and passionate anti-war contingent in Britain who braved ridicule, condemnation, and in some instances death by firing squad. The author concentrates on the divergent loyalties that each exhibited. The dilemma faced by peace activists is one common to dissenters then and now; how do you oppose a war because of your unshakeable conviction that it is wrong, without seeming to undermine the husbands, fathers, and brothers of your fellow citizens whose lives are in danger? Hochschild paints a vivid picture of what lay ahead after the end of hostilities. Britain’s aristocratic class was confident that the war would be ended by cavalry—men on horseback wielding lances, but that belief was ended by an industrialized war, clip loaded rifles, machine guns, airplanes, tanks, and mustard gas. The war didn’t serve anything but set the stage for a great political unknown which lay ahead, but led inevitably to warfare that was more mechanized, ever more deadly and more impersonal. The antiwar sentiments and unchecked nationalizing during wars since then have ebbed and flowed but Britain in the first World War was the largest and most sustained example of each side’s passion in what it believed clashing against each other to such a large degree.
August 6th Mystery Book Club, The Informationist by Taylor Stevens.
August 6th the Mystery Book Club discusses The Informationist by Taylor Stevens. If you enjoyed the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series, this is just the ticket. The first book in the new series introduces Vanessa Munroe, a take no prisoners sort of woman. She deals in information, for a price she will find the answers. A wealthy man wants to discover what really happened to his step-daughter who was killed in Africa several years ago. Vanessa is not eager to return to Africa, she has child hood memories, but he is willing to pay very well for his answers. It is best not to rile Vanessa; the body count can go pretty high. Taylor Stevens was brought up in the Children of God cult. Her childhood was unconventional and difficult. She lived for several years in East and West Central Africa, the setting for her book. The series continues with The Innocent.
August 13th the Fiction Book Club discusses The Tiger’s Wife by Tea O’Breht. Natalia’s beloved Grandfather took her often to the zoo, to visit the tiger and hear the story of the Tiger’s Wife. He carried with him a well-worn copy of The Jungle Book by Kipling. Natalia followed in her Grandfather’s footsteps, becoming a doctor. She is heading off to inoculate the children of a poverty stricken Balkan village when she learns her Grandfather has died miles from home in a remote village. Natalia knew her Grandfather had been hiding a serious illness, but why did he go off and die in some remote settlement? As she searches for the reason her Grandfather left his home and family to journey to a rundown outpost, she is drawn into stories of folk lore and discovers a secret from the past. The Tiger’s Wife was selected by the New York Times as one of the Top Ten books of 2011.
August 20th Classics Book Club, War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
Classics Book Club will meet one hour earlier on August 20th at 5:30 so book club members can attend the Sunriver Music Festival. War And Peace by Count Leo Tolstoy is considered one of the best works of literature ever written. Full of passion, betrayal, war and intrigue, this is an epic story. It begins with a party where we meet many of the main characters and leads on to France’s invasion of Russia in the Napoleonic war. Characters are complex and richly drawn, the history is enlightening, and the story is ambitious in scope. Tolstoy’s depiction of Napoleon serves the story well.
August 27th Travel Essay Book Club, Country Driving by Peter Hessler
August 27th the Travel Essay Book Club discusses Country Driving by Peter Hessler. China is well known to Hessler, he served two years there in the Peace Corp then was the Beijing correspondent for the New Yorker from 2000 to 2007. He has two previous books on China, River Town and Oracle Bones. Country Driving is an entertaining book, it mixes Hessler’s road trips while living in China with an account of the Chinese’ enthusiastic embracing of the car culture and driving, albeit very bad driving. Information about China’s current culture and past enliven the story.
A Month of Eastern Canada, September 3rd Mystery Book Club, Forty Words For Sorrow by Giles Blunt.
September 3rd the Mystery Book Club discusses Forty Words For Sorrow by Giles Blunt. Set in the unrelenting cold of Algonquin Bay this is an edge of your seat mystery. Detective John Cardinal has a partner he doesn’t really want and a killer targeting children to catch. Lisa Delorme might be more than a partner, she might be investigating Cardinal’s link to a drug dealer. There is no time for distractions; Cardinal has to focus on a killer who will strike again. The setting is used brilliantly; you will feel the bitter cold of Ontario. Fine writing, a tense plot, and a complex protagonist combine to make this a page turner.
A Month of Eastern Canada, September 10th Fiction Book Club, The Bird Artist by Howard Norman.
September 10th the Fiction Book Club discusses The Bird Artist by Howard Norman. This gifted author takes the reader to Newfoundland. On the first page Fabian Vas, the bird artist, confesses to murdering the lighthouse keeper. Fabian is an engaging narrator, he keeps the reader engrossed as he fills in the background of growing up in the windswept isolated fishing village in the early 1900’s. His talent for drawing birds is apparent early in life. He falls in love with the wrong woman, or wrong by the standards of his parents and community. Margaret is headstrong and wild, a grand character for the reader to enjoy. Norman uses his historical setting and characters well; he spices up the tale with humor as he fills in the background that brought the lighthouse keeper to destruction. Howard Norman is a true wordsmith well able to craft an intricate, beautiful and moving story.
A Month of Eastern Canada, September 17th Travel Essay Book Club, Rowing to Latitude by Jill Fredston.
September 17th the Travel Essay Book Club will discuss Rowing to Latitude by Jill Fredston. Cold, artic coastlines attract Jill and her husband, Doug. The two avalanche experts spend their off time in rowing the frigid waters from Canada to Norway to Greenland. Killer waves, polar bears and ferocious storms face the couple in their travels. They also encounter indigenous people and pristine nature. We will be focusing on the portion of their travels in Canada.
A Month of Eastern Canada, September 24th Classics Book Club, The Shipping News by Annie Proulx.
September 24th the Classics Book Club will discuss The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. Winning both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize is a rare honor, and this is a rare book. Beautifully written, haunting, melancholy, and funny. Qyoyle has not enjoyed much success in life. He is a mediocre newspaper man, with a disastrous family life. His adulterous wife runs off with her lover, tries to sell his daughters, and is killed in a car crash. When his children are returned to him, he must make a home and a life for them, but he is overwhelmed by the task ahead of him. Quoyle’s aunt persuades him to leave the city and return to their ancestral home in Newfoundland, a place he had never visited. Quoyle finds work with the local paper and sets about reclaiming his life. In this isolated, stark landscape he just might put his torments to rest and find joy.
October 1st Mystery Book Club, Trespasser by Paul Doiron.
October 1st the Mystery Book Club discusses Trespasser by Paul Doiron. Maine game warden Mike Bowditch is viewing the damage to a homeowner’s property by obnoxious ATV riders when he gets a call about a car colliding with a deer. He arrives on the scene, finds the car and blood evidence of a collision but no deer, no woman. State Trooper Hutchins shows up shortly after Bowditch and is unconcerned with the missing deer or woman, he figures someone picked up the meat and the woman got a ride. Trooper Hutchens takes over, sending Bowditch home with the admonition not to worry. Later the woman is found dead, the case eerily similar to a killing several years ago.
October 22nd, Fiction Book Club, 1000 White Women by Jim Fergus.
October 22nd the Fiction Book Club discusses One Thousand White Women: The Journals of Mary Dodd by Jim Fergus. Mary Dodd is among 1000 women who journey west as brides for the Cheyenne. The story supposes that Cheyenne Chief Little Wolf suggests to President Ulysses Grant the two cultures could reach peace more easily with a common bond. Little Wolf proposes trading 1000 good Cheyenne horses for 1000 white women. The President does not want the publicity that would ensue, but does see the merit in assimilation of the Indians. The US Government begins a Brides for Indians program where women can volunteer to be given as brides, often those women were inmates of prisons and asylums. Mary Dodd was incarcerated in an asylum by her wealthy family; she is eager to regain her freedom and accepts the offer with alacrity. It is an interesting premise.
October 29th Classics Book Club, Dracula by Bram Stoker.
October 29th the Classics Book Club discusses Dracula by Bram Stoker. Halloween is just around the corner, a perfect time to discuss the original vampire. Young solicitor Jonathan Harker travels to the remote mountains of Transylvania to meet with Count Vladimir Dracula. The young man barely escapes with his life. Dracula journeys to England where he makes the acquaintance of Harker’s beloved Wilhelmina Murray and her friend Lucy Westenra. And then the plot thickens. It should be great fun to read around the holiday. The Dracula novels are inspired by the real Count Vlad Dracula 1431-1476. He was a hero to his people and feared by his enemies. If you would like to read a more modern story featuring the famous Transylvanian, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is an award winning, beautifully written story that is hard to put down.
November 5th Mystery Book Club, Redbreast by Jo Nesbo.
November 5th the Mystery Book Club discusses The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo. Great writing and riveting plots are hallmarks of Nesbo’s Harry Hole series. Harry is charged with taking part in the security detail when the American President visits Norway, something goes horribly awry. The powers that be do not want the press to get wind of their errors, so the easiest thing to do is remove the weak link. Harry is reassigned to keep watch on the Neo-Nazis and their nasty little plans. But Harry is distracted by information that someone has recently bought a very specialized sniper rifle, an expensive and hard to come by gun, a gun that would be not only out of the price range of most of the Neo-Nazis but way out of their league too. So who purchased the smuggled gun and who are they planning to kill? The trail will lead back more than sixty years to a cold winter on the Russian front. The Redbreast was awarded the Norwegian Bookseller’s Prize 2000 for Best Novel of the Year. Nesbo’s stories are dark, disturbing, and fantastically good reading.
November 12th Non Fiction Book Club, Outliers by Malcom Gladwell.
Is Bill Gates such an outrageously talented genius that he would have succeeded in any environment? Or was Bill helped along a bit by coming of age just at the dawn of the computer age? Did the circumstances of his birth in an area that afforded him opportunity prepare the way for his success? Gladwell delves into what makes some people successful while others miss the boat. He looks at the role of intelligence and chance. From Mozart to Robert Oppenheimer, what role did hidden advantages play in their success? The subject matter and Gladwell’s compelling narrative keep the book interesting and enlightening.
November 19th Fiction Book Club, The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark.
Evie married a piano playing man quick to laugh, a family man who enjoyed the company of his wife and son. Martin returns from WWII a different person, that quick laughter and joy in his family is gone. Now he is solemn and disengaged, grim to be around. He is offered a Fulbright Fellowship to observe the partition of India. Evie jumps at the chance, convincing Martin to accept. She thinks that in new surroundings maybe they can make a fresh start, maybe Martin will revert to the man she married. It soon becomes apparent that India is not going to repair Martin. Evie finds letters hidden behind a brick in the house they are renting, the letters are from two English women who travel to India in 1857; Evie becomes obsessed with discovering their fate. India had two major cataclysmic events involving the west; Partition in 1947 and the Uprising of 1857. Both were bloody and very, very dangerous.
November 26th Classics Book Club, Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
This novel contains not only the novella made famous by the Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn film but also 3 other short stories. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the story of a free spirit, Holiday Golightly, a woman of many secrets and much panache. Set in New York in 1943, the story revolves around Holly and her relationship to a variety of people, including the narrator, a young man residing in the same brownstone apartment building. Capote mined his own life deeply in his fiction. There has been much speculation as to the identity of the model for Holiday Golightly, front runners are the author’s mother Nina Capote and his good friend, Marylyn Monroe. The last story in the book, A Christmas Memory, should put you in the mood for the upcoming holiday and the deeper meaning of its celebration. Again Capote is inspired by his past in writing this lovely short story. The main characters are Buddy, a seven year old little boy, and his cousin Sook, a woman in her sixties. They are dirt poor, but they do their best for the holiday, saving their pennies to buy the fixings for fruitcake and taking their dog with them off into the forest for the perfect Christmas tree.
Mystery Book Club meets December 3rd to discuss Broken by Karin Fossum. This is a highly inventive mystery. If you enjoy reading something a bit different, it should intrigue you. A lone woman looks out her window in the night, she sees people standing outside her house, an old man, a woman clutching a baby, and many others, all standing and waiting. “They are patient, their heads are bowed, they are waiting for their stories to be told, and it is I who will tell them – I am the author.” This time things are different, when the woman goes to bed, she hears the sound of someone breaking into her house. She lies paralyzed by fear in the quiet of her bedroom. Up the stairs comes one of the men she watched standing outside, he has jumped the queue, desperately eager for his story to be told. As the author creates a world for her character, he becomes more and more real to the reader. Chapters are interspersed where the character, Alvar Eade, and author converse. Alvar, is a good man, pleased with his career in an art gallery and his apartment within easy walking distance of the town. Perhaps he has not fully understood the import of the type of fiction our author writes, for she is an author of crime novels and something upsetting is sure to come his way. Karin Fossum is an award winning Norwegian author; this is a lively, interesting step outside her popular Inspector Konrad Sejer series.
December 10th Fiction Book Club discusses Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister; a beautifully written story. Kate’s victory over the Emperor of Maladies is being celebrated with an intimate dinner party for six of her closest friends. Her daughter put up a brochure in the kitchen about rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Kate’s friends encourage her to take her daughter up on the trip, as a grand celebration of her renewed health. She agrees provided each of her guests allows her to choose a challenge for them too. The six women face challenges that ultimately enrich their lives. Each challenge is different and tailored to the unique situation and character of the woman. Divorce has left one friend stuck in the past, she cannot seem to let go and move on. Her ex-husband’s books still dominate her book cases. Her challenge is to rid the house of those reminders of her past life so she can get on with her new life. This is the perfect book for the season! It celebrates the bonds of friendship, the accomplishment of surmounting a challenge, and the need to fully engage with life. Erica Bauermeister writes with sensuous, lush prose; her books are a joy to read and this is a heartwarming, life affirming story. Her prior book, The School of Essential Ingredients, is also a lovely story, set in a cooking class.
The Travel Essay Book Club meets December 17th to discuss Paris Was Ours: Thirty Two Writers Reflect On The City of Light by Penelope Rowland. It is dark early in December, what better way to spend a few evenings than reading about the City of Light? Penelope Rowland brought together a diverse group of author’s reflections on their relationship to Paris. Diane Johnson muses on the culture, Caroline Weber remembers Frenchmen from her time in Paris as a young, pretty Harvard grad, Joe Queenan also reminisces about his gap year in Paris. David Sedaris talks about the language. Stacy Shiff follows in Ben Franklin’s footsteps. Each author brings a different remembrance of Paris, a city that captivates the imagination.