2015 Book Listing
All 2nd Friday Book Club discussions are aired on AM 1240 WKDK during the Coffee Hour from 9 until 10 am on the 2nd Friday of each month, and are available on our Podcast page soon thereafter. We invite the community to join us for the recording of the book discussion the Thursday before the 2nd Friday at 5:30 pm at Books on Main, our sponsor.
Touch and Go, Lisa Gardner 480 pages
How do you vanish a family? Ten minutes after walking the elite Back Bay townhouse and investigator Tessa Leoni already doesn’t like what she sees. Signs of an abduction. Clearly the work of professionals. At best, the entire family has been kidnapped. At worst… How do you disappear a marriage? The more Tessa learns about the Denbe family, the less she likes their chances. What might have looked like the perfect existence—a powerful CEO, his adoring wife, their angelic child—is not what it appears. Husband, wife, daughter—magazine perfect, but each hiding dark secrets…
How do you erase a life? Tessa knows more than she’d like to about families riddled with lies. What she doesn’t know is where the Denbes are and if any of them are still breathing. She’ll have to climb over unbending feds and territorial local cops to find out, and if she’s not fast, the Denbes’ chances of survival will quickly become little more than…
Guests on Earth, Lee Smith 368 pages
It’s 1936 when orphaned thirteen-year-old Evalina Toussaint is admitted to Highland Hospital, a mental institution in Asheville, North Carolina, known for its innovative treatments for nervous disorders and addictions. Taken under the wing of the hospital’s most notable patient, Zelda Fitzgerald, Evalina witnesses cascading events that lead up to the tragic fire of 1948 that killed nine women in a locked ward, Zelda among them. Author Lee Smith has created, through a seamless blending of fiction and fact, a mesmerizing novel about a world apart--in which art and madness are luminously intertwined.
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, Maggie O’Farrell 245 pages
Chic and independent, Iris Lockhart is tending to her vintage-clothing shop in Edinburgh (and evading her married boyfriend) when she receives a stunning phone call: her great-aunt Esme—whom she never knew existed—is being released from Cauldstone Hospital, where she has been locked away for more than sixty years. Iris’s grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. But Esme’s papers prove she is Kitty’s sister, and Iris can see the shadow of her father in Esme’s face. Esme has been labeled harmless—sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world—but she's still basically a stranger, a family member hidden away who will surely bring secrets with her when she leaves the ward. Moving expertly among the voices of Iris, Kitty, and Esme herself, Maggie O'Farrell reveals the story of Esme's tragic and haunting absence.
Mama Makes up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living, Bailey White, (Humor) 240 pages
Welcome to the unique world of Bailey White. Her aunt Belle may take you to see her bellowing pet alligator. Her uncle Jimbuddy may appall you with his knack for losing pieces of himself. Most of all, you may succumb utterly to the charms of Bailey’s mama, who will take you to a juke joint so raunchy it scared Ernest Hemingway or tuck you into her antique guest bed that has the disconcerting habit of folding up on people while they sleep. White’s indelible vignettes of Southern eccentricity have entranced millions who have heard her read them on NPR. Mama Makes Up Her Mind is as sweetly intoxicating as a mint julep and as invigorating as a walk in White’s own overgrown garden.
The Professor and the Madman, Simon Winchester (Non-fiction) 242 pages
The Professor and the Madman, masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary -- and literary history. The compilation of the OED began in 1857 and was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W. C. Minor, had submitted more than ten thousand. When the committee insisted on honoring him, a shocking truth came to light: Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.
The Pecan Man, Cassie Dandridge Selleck (Regional) 144 pages
The Pecan Man is a work of Southern fiction whose first chapter was the First Place winner of the 2006 CNW/FFWA Florida State Writing Competition in the Unpublished Novel category. In the summer of 1976, recently widowed and childless, Ora Lee Beckworth hires a homeless old black man to mow her lawn. The neighborhood children call him the Pee-can Man; their mothers call them inside whenever he appears. When the police chief’s son is found stabbed to death near his camp, the man Ora knows as Eddie is arrested and charged with murder. Twenty-five years later, Ora sets out to tell the truth about the Pecan Man. In narrating her story, Ora discovers more truth about herself than she could ever have imagined. This novel has been described as To Kill a Mockingbird meets The Help.
Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel, S. J. Watson 368 pages
S. J. Watson makes his powerful debut with this compelling, fast-paced psychological thriller, reminiscent of Shutter Island and Memento, in which an amnesiac who, following a mysterious accident, cannot remember her past or form new memories, desperately tries to uncover the truth about who she is—and who she can trust.
On Looking, Alexandra Horowitz (Non-fiction)
Alexandra Horowitzshows us how to see the spectacle of the ordinary—to practice, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put it, “the observation of trifles.” Structured around a series of eleven walks the author takes, mostly in her Manhattan neighborhood, On Looking features experts on a diverse range of subjects, including an urban sociologist, the well-known artist Maira Kalman, a geologist, a physician, and a sound designer. Horowitz also walks with a child and a dog to see the world as they perceive it. What they see, how they see it, and why most of us do not see the same things reveal the startling power of human attention and the cognitive aspects of what it means to be an expert observer.
Page by page, Horowitz shows how much more there is to see—if only we would really look. Trained as a cognitive scientist, she discovers a feast of fascinating detail, all explained with her generous humor and self-deprecating tone. So turn off the phone and other electronic devices and be in the real world—where strangers communicate by geometry as they walk toward one another, where sounds reveal shadows, where posture can display humility, and the underside of a leaf unveils a Lilliputian universe—where, indeed, there are worlds within worlds within worlds.
The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis (classic) 209 pages
A milestone in the history of popular theology, The Screwtape Letters is an iconic classic on spiritual warfare and the dynamics of temptation.This profound and striking narrative takes the form of a series of letters from Screwtape, a devil high in the Infernal Civil Service, to his nephew Wormwood, a junior colleague engaged in his first mission on earth, trying to secure the damnation of a young man who has just become a Christian. Although the young man initially looks to be a willing victim, he changes his ways and is "lost" to the young devil. Dedicated to Lewis's friend and colleague J. R. R. Tolkien, The Screwtape Letters is a timeless classic on spiritual conflict and the psychology of temptation which are part of our religious experience.
The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd 384 pages
Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.
Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love. As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements. Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.
Orphan Train: A Novel, Christina Baker Kline 278 pages
Orphan Train is a gripping story of friendship and second chances from Christina Baker Kline, author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be. Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse...As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance. Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.