The Library’s Contemporary Literature Book Discussions meet in the Library Conference Room on the second Tuesday of the month (during the months of August – November and January – June), at 7:30 p.m. No registration required.
Upcoming book discussions:
Tuesday, April 11, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
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.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
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.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
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.
Previous Titles in Current Season:
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
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)
Book discussions led by Stacey
Book discussions led by Laura
Book discussions led by Roseanne
Book discussions led by Astrid
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
(Literary fiction; Moving; Thought-Provoking)
Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff
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
(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
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
(Adventure Stories; History; Compelling; Richly Detailed)
Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
Atwood, these brilliant and original nine tales epitomize the famous saying
that "growing old ain't for sissies."
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
(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
cadavers lead quite interesting lives after death, as Mary Roach demonstrates
in this witty and informative, funny yet respectful work of nonfiction.
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
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."
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
(Psychological Suspense; International Fiction; Disturbing;
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
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.
Fiction; Time Travel)
The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky
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.
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
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
(Memoir; Food Writing)
Arcadia by Lauren Groff
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
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.
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
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,
(Travelogue; Strong Sense of Place; Candid; Conversational)
The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield
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
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,
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
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
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
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
(True Crime; History)
The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason
In 1886, Edgar Drake, an introverted and studious piano tuner, receives a request from the British government to travel to Burma to tune the piano of an eccentric British official. Drake accepts the assignment, tunes the piano, and then finds himself unwilling to leave this inscrutable region. This story reveals how a geographical location and the social environment change an unexceptional man. You’ll not want this story to end.
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
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
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
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
(Literary Fiction; Psychological Suspense)
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.