Book Discussions Led by Astrid

 

 

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Fiction | Nonfiction  

 

 

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) 

    

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales 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)

 

 

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 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) 

 

 

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)

 

 

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) 

 

 

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)

 

 

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)

 

 

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.

(Family Saga)

 

 

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)  

 

 

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)

 

 

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 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)

 

Out Stealing Horses byPer 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) 

 

 

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 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)

 

 

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)

 

 

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)

 

 

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) 

 

 

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) 

 

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NONFICTION

 

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) 

 

 

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)  

 

 

The United States of Arugula  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. 

(Gastronomy) 

 

 

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;)  

 

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)

 

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)

 

 

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)

 

 

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