Book Discussion Kits

Book Discussion Kit Home

Sno-Isle Libraries and the Sno-Isle Foundation are proud to offer book discussion kits.

Each kit includes 10 copies of a single title. Resources for book discussions may be found at publishers' websites, bound into some editions of the book, or at www.bookreporter.com or www.readinggroupguides.com (Download a printer friendly list of book kits.)

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Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Cooper, Helene

The harrowing, but triumphant story of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, leader of the Liberian women's movement, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the first democratically elected female president in African history. Detailing the president, the women of Liberia who elected her, and the Ebola epidemic that impacted them both. A vivid portrait with the rhythm of Liberian English --NoveList & Library Journal.

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Bio & Memoir History International Politics
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Madonnas of Leningrad

Dean, Debra

Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina's grip on the everyday. And while the elderly Russian woman cannot hold on to fresh memories -- the details of her grown children's lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild -- her distant past is preserved: vivid images that rise unbidden of her youth in war-torn Leningrad. Seamlessly moving back and forth in time between the Soviet Union and the contemporary Pacific Northwest, The Madonnas of Leningrad is a searing portrait of war and remembrance, of the power of love, memory, and art to offer beauty, grace, and hope in the face of overwhelming despair.

Regional Author

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Family History Pacific Northwest Short (less than 250 pages) WWII
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Making Toast

Rosenblatt, Roger

When his daughter, Amy--a gifted doctor, mother, and wife--collapses and dies from an asymptomatic heart condition, Roger Rosenblatt and his wife, Ginny, leave their home on the South Shore of Long Island to move in with their son-in-law, Harris, and their three young grandchildren: six-year-old Jessica, four-year-old Sammy, and one-year-old James, known as Bubbies. Long past the years of diapers, homework, and recitals, Roger and Ginny--Boppo and Mimi to the kids--quickly reaccustom themselves to the world of small children: bedtime stories, talking toys, playdates, nonstop questions, and nonsequential thought. Though reeling from Amy's death they carry on, reconstructing a family, sustaining one another, and guiding three lively, alert, and tender-hearted children through the pains and confusions of grief.

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Bio & Memoir Family Short (less than 250 pages)
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Man Called Ove

Backman, Fredrik

In this "charming debut" ( People ) from one of Sweden's most successful authors, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon--the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him "the bitter neighbor from hell." But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul.

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International Not so Grim Watch It
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Man Called Ove, A

Backman, Fredrik

In this "charming debut" ( People ) from one of Sweden's most successful authors, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon--the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him "the bitter neighbor from hell." But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul.

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International Not so Grim Watch It

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Man in the Window, The

Cohen, Jon

Since he was disfigured in a fire sixteen years ago, recluse Louis Malone has remained hidden from the prying eyes of his neighbors in the small town of Waverly.Across town, Iris Shula, a lonely and unlovely nurse knows, at thirty-seven, it is unlikely that her Prince Charming will ever appear. But Iris is about to learn how wrong she is.When Louis accidently falls out of his second story window these two kindred souls are brought together. What unfolds is a most unlikely love story. One that will make you laugh and that will break - and remake - your heart.Book Lust Rediscoveries is a series devoted to reprinting some of the best (and now out of print) novels originally published from 1960 to 2000. Each book is personally selected by NPR commentator and Book Lust author Nancy Pearl and includes an introduction by her, as well as discussion questions for book groups and a list of recommended further reading.

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Family Short (less than 250 pages)
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Manhattan Beach

Egan, Jennifer

Mesmerizing, hauntingly beautiful, with the pace and atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan's first historical novel is a masterpiece, a deft, startling, intimate exploration of a transformative moment in the lives of women and men, America and the world. Manhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan accompanies her father to the house of Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She is the sole provider for her mother, a farm girl who had a brief and glamorous career with the Ziegfeld Follies, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a nightclub, she chances to meet Dexter Styles again, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father's life, the reasons he might have vanished.

Andrew Carnegie Medal
Booklist Editors' Choice
LibraryReads Favorites
New York Times Notable Books
National Book Award Longlist

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Awards History WWII
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Map of Salt and Stars, The

Joukhadar, Jennifer Zeynab

Two girls journey through the Middle East, separated by 800 years. Nour’s family returns to Syria after her father’s death, just as the country is thrown into conflict. Rawiya flees her home disguised as a boy in order to apprentice with a mapmaker. What are the parallels in their stories set in worlds both similar and disparate?

Middle East Book Award Winner
Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist

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Martian, The

Weir, Andy

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Alex Award
Goodreads Choice Awards
Indies' Choice Book Awards
Library Journal Best Thrillers
LibraryReads Favorites
The Reading List

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Awards Sci-fi/Fantasy Watch It Youth
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May the Road Rise Up to Meet You

Troy, Peter

"An engrossing, epic American drama told from four distinct perspectives, spanning the first major wave of Irish immigration to New York through the end of the Civil War. Four unique voices; two parallel love stories; one sweeping novel rich in the history of nineteenth century America. This remarkable debut draws from the great themes of literature--famine, war, love, and family--as it introduces four unforgettable characters...Provided by publisher.

Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction

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History Sagas
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Me Before You

Moyes, Jojo

"They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose. Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life--steady boyfriend, close family--who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after a motorcycle accident. Will has always lived a huge life--big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel--and now he's pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. Will is acerbic, moody, bossy--but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living. A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn't have less in common--a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart? "-- Provided by publisher.

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Watch It Youth
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Memory Keeper's Daughter, The

Edwards, Kim

On a winter night in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy. Yet when his daughter is born, he sees immediately that she has Down's Syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split-second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. But Caroline, the nurse, cannot leave the infant. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself.

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Family Sagas Watch It
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Men Explain Things to Me

Solnit, Rebecca

In her comic, scathing essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters. This book features that now-classic essay with six complements, including an examination of the great feminist writer Virginia Woolf 's embrace of mystery, of not knowing, of doubt and ambiguity, a highly original inquiry into marriage equality, and a terrifying survey of the scope of contemporary violence against women.

GoodReads Choice Award Nominee

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Not so Grim Short (less than 250 pages) Society & Culture
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Men We Reaped

Ward, Jesmyn

Finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle Award Nominee for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award A New York Times Notable Book "We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped." --Harriet Tubman In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young men in her life--to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: Why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through all the dying, she realized the truth--and it took her breath away. Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn says the answer was so obvious she felt stupid for not seeing it. But it nagged at her until she knew she had to write about her community, to write their stories and her own. Jesmyn grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi. She writes powerfully about the pressures this brings, on the men who can do no right and the women who stand in for family in a society where the men are often absent. She bravely tells her story, revisiting the agonizing losses of her only brother and her friends. As the sole member of her family to leave home and pursue higher education, she writes about this parallel American universe with the objectivity distance provides and the intimacy of utter familiarity. A brutal world rendered beautifully, Jesmyn Ward's memoir will sit comfortably alongside Edwidge Danticat's Brother, I'm Dying , Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life , and Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
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Mercy Snow

Baker, Tiffany

In the tiny town of Titan Falls, New Hampshire, the paper mill dictates a quiet, steady rhythm of life. But one day a tragic bus accident sets two families on a course toward destruction, irrevocably altering the lives of everyone in their wake. June McAllister is the wife of the local mill owner and undisputed first lady in town. But the Snow family, a group of itinerant ne'er-do-wells who live on a decrepit and cursed property, have brought her--and the town--nothing but grief.

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Coming of Age Crime Family Society & Culture Youth
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Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Sullivan, Matthew

When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind. When Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia? As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey's suicide, she unearths a long-buried memory from her own violent childhood.

"Both charming and challenging" (Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review), Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a "multi-generational tale of abandonment, desperation, and betrayal…inventive and intricately plotted" (Publishers Weekly, starred review).


Whidbey Reads Selection
LibraryReads Favorite

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Book Lovers Crime
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Mink River

Doyle, Brian

Like Dylan Thomas'Under Milk Woodand Sherwood Anderson'sWinesburg, Ohio,Brian Doyle's stunning fiction debut brings a town to life through the jumbled lives and braided stories of its people.In a small fictional town on the Oregon coast there are love affairs and almost-love-affairs, mystery and hilarity, bears and tears, brawls and boats, a garrulous logger and a silent doctor, rain and pain, Irish immigrants and Salish stories, mud and laughter...It's the tale of a town, written in a distinct and lyrical voice, and readers will close the book more than a little sad to leave the village of Neawanaka, on the wet coast of Oregon, beneath the hills that used to boast the biggest trees in the history of the world.

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Animals Awards Family History Pacific Northwest Society & Culture
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Moonglow

Chabon, Michael

The deathbed confession of a man the narrator refers to only as "my grandfather" is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and marriage and desire, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at midcentury, and, above all, of the destructive impact-- and the creative power-- of keeping secrets and telling lies. A man bears witness to his grandfather's deathbed confessions, which reveal his family's long-buried history and his involvement in a mail-order novelty company, World War II, and the space program. - From the publisher


Booklist Editors' Choice
LibraryReads Favorites
New York Times Notable Books
Sophie Brody Medal
ALA Carnegie Medal Finalist

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Awards Family History Sagas WWII
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Morning Glory

Jio, Sarah

New York Times bestselling author Sarah Jio imagines life on Boat Street, a floating community on Seattle's Lake Union, home to people of artistic spirit who for decades protect the dark secret of one startling night in 1959 Fleeing an East Coast life marred by tragedy, Ada Santorini takes up residence on houseboat number seven on Boat Street. She discovers a trunk left behind by Penny Wentworth, a young newlywed who lived on the boat half a century earlier. Ada longs to know her predecessor's fate, but little suspects that Penny's mysterious past and her own clouded future are destined to converge.

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Crime Family History Pacific Northwest
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Most Dangerous Branch, The

Kaplan, David A.

Journalist David Kaplan makes the case that the United States Supreme Court has grown dangerously powerful – that the nine judges are all, regardless of political orientation, guilty of arrogant political overreach. He traces the history of the chamber from a relatively quiescent one to a group that, he argues, routinely interferes with policy making better left to legislative process. The book, based on dozens of interviews with those who work with the Supreme Court, describes the court’s inner workings and behind-the-scenes operations.

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History Politics
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Motorcycle Diaries, The

Guevara, Che

The Motorcycle Diaries is Che Guevara's diary of his journey to discover the continent of Latin America while still a medical student, setting out in 1952 on a vintage Norton motorcycle together with his friend Alberto Granado, a biochemist. It captures, arguably as much as any book ever written, the exuberance and joy of one person's youthful belief in the possibilities of humankind tending towards justice, peace and happiness. After the release in 2004 of the exhilarating film of the same title, directed by Walter Salles, the book became a New York Times and international bestseller.

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Social Justice Society & Culture Underrepresented Authors
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Mrs. Poe

Cullen, Lynn

1845: New York City is a sprawling warren of gaslit streets and crowded avenues, bustling with new immigrants and old money, optimism and opportunity, poverty and crime. Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" is all the rage--the success of which a struggling poet like Frances Osgood can only dream. As a mother trying to support two young children after her husband's cruel betrayal, Frances jumps at the chance to meet the illustrious Mr. Poe at a small literary gathering, if only to help her fledgling career. Although not a great fan of Poe's writing, she is nonetheless overwhelmed by his magnetic presence--and the surprising revelation that he admires her work. What follows is a flirtation, then a seduction, then an illicit affair...and with each clandestine encounter, Frances finds herself falling slowly and inexorably under the spell of her mysterious, complicated lover.

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Book Lovers History
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Music of the Ghosts

Ratner, Vaddey

Leaving the safety of America, Teera returns to Cambodia for the first time since her harrowing escape as a child refugee. She carries a letter from a man who mysteriously signs himself as "the Old Musician" and claims to have known her father in the Khmer Rouge prison where he disappeared twenty-five years ago. Arriving in Phnom Penh, Teera finds a society still in turmoil, where perpetrators and survivors of atrocity live side by side. Soon she meets a young doctor who carries his own memories of that time but also shows her a beautiful country on a fragile path of reconciliation. Meanwhile, the Old Musician anticipates the confession he must make. Together Teera and the Old Musician confront the truth of their intertwined past, weaving a melody that will leave both transformed, and freeing Teera to find a new home and a new love in the places she least expects.-- Adapted from book jacket.
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My Brilliant Friend

Ferrante, Elena

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy's most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante's inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship. The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change.
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My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me

Teege, Jennifer

When Jennifer Teege, a German-Nigerian woman, happened to pluck a library book from the shelf, she had no idea that her life would be irrevocably altered. Recognizing photos of her mother and grandmother in the book, she discovers a horrifying fact: Her grandfather was Amon Goeth, the vicious Nazi commandant chillingly depicted by Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List --a man known and reviled the world over. Although raised in an orphanage and eventually adopted, Teege had some contact with her biological mother and grandmother as a child. Yet neither revealed that Teege's grandfather was the Nazi "butcher of Plaszów," executed for crimes against humanity in 1946. The more Teege reads about Amon Goeth, the more certain she becomes: If her grandfather had met her--a black woman--he would have killed her.
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My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry

Backman, Fredrik

When Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, the letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones... but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

LibraryReads Favorite

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Coming of Age Family International Not so Grim Youth
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My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues

Paul, Pamela

For twenty-eight years, Pamela Paul has been keeping a diary that records the books she reads, rather than the life she leads. Or does it? Over time, it's become clear that this Book of Books, or Bob, as she calls him, tells a much bigger story. For Paul, as for many readers, books reflect her inner life-- her fantasies and hopes, her dreams and ideas. And her life, in turn, influences which books she chooses, whether for solace or escape, diversion or self-reflection, information or entertainment. My Life with Bob isn't about what's in those books; it's about the relationship between books and readers. My Life with Bob is a testament to the power of books to provide the perspective, courage, companionship, and ultimately self-knowledge to forge our own path"-- Provided by publisher.
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My Name Is Lucy Barton

Strout, Eilzabeth

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn't spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy's childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy's life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

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Family History Short (less than 250 pages)
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My Old Man and the Mountain

Whittaker, Leif

Growing up in a mountaineering family in Port Townsend, Leif explores his relationship to his legendary father, Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Everest in 1963. Leif also describes his process of discovering his own path. Filled with descriptions of local places and peaks, this climbing story focuses on family and relationships. How do we define ourselves when a larger than life person is leading the way?

2017 Washington State Book Award finalist

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Bio & Memoir Family History Pacific Northwest Science & Nature
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My Own Words

Ginsburg, Ruth Bader

Offers a collection of engaging, serious, and playful writings and speeches from the Supreme Court justice on topics ranging from gender equality and the workings of the Court to Judaism and the value of looking beyond U.S. shores when interpreting the Constitution.

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Bio & Memoir Politics Society & Culture