Book Discussion KitsBook 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.)
Alan TuringHodges, Andrew
It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) saved the Allies from the Nazis, invented the computer and artificial intelligence, and anticipated gay liberation by decades--all before his suicide at age forty-one. This acclaimed biography of the founder of computer science, with a new preface by the author that addresses Turing's royal pardon in 2013, is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life...
Alexander HamiltonChernow, Ron
Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow's biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today's America is the result of Hamilton's countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. "To repudiate his legacy," Chernow writes, "is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world." Chernow here recounts Hamilton's turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington's aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.
American Prometheus: The Inspiration for the Major Motion Picture OppenheimerBird, Kai; Sherwin, Martin J
J. Robert Oppenheimer is one of the iconic figures of the twentieth century, a physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb for his country in a time of war, and who later found himself confronting the moral consequences of scientific progress. In this biography twenty-five years in the making, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin capture Oppenheimer's life and times, from his early career to his central role in the Cold War. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography
In the tradition of The Lost City of Z and Skeletons in the Zahara, Astoria is the thrilling, true-adventure tale of the 1810 Astor Expedition, an epic, now forgotten, three-year journey to forge an American empire on the Pacific Coast. Peter Stark offers a harrowing saga in which a band of explorers battled nature, starvation, and madness to establish the first American settlement in the Pacific Northwest and opened up what would become the Oregon trail, permanently altering the nation's landscape and its global standing. Six years after Lewis and Clark's began their journey to the Pacific Northwest, two of the Eastern establishment's leading figures, John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson, turned their sights to founding a colony akin to Jamestown on the West Coast and transforming the nation into a Pacific trading power. Author and correspondent for Outside magazine Peter Stark recreates this pivotal moment in American history for the first time for modern readers, drawing on original source material to tell the amazing true story of the Astor Expedition. Unfolding over the course of three years, from 1810 to 1813, Astoria is a tale of high adventure and incredible hardship in the wilderness and at sea. Of the more than one hundred-forty members of the two advance parties that reached the West Coast--one crossing the Rockies, the other rounding Cape Horn--nearly half perished by violence. Others went mad. Within one year, the expedition successfully established Fort Astoria, a trading post on the Columbia River. Though the colony would be short-lived, it opened provincial American eyes to the potential of the Western coast and its founders helped blaze the Oregon Trail.
When George Hodgman leaves Manhattan for his hometown of Paris, Missouri, he finds himself--an unlikely caretaker and near-lethal cook--in a head-on collision with his aging mother, Betty, a woman of wit and will. Will George lure her into assisted living? When hell freezes over. He can't bring himself to force her from the home both treasure--the place where his father's voice lingers, the scene of shared jokes, skirmishes, and, behind the dusty antiques, a rarely acknowledged conflict: Betty, who speaks her mind but cannot quite reveal her heart, has never really accepted the fact that her son is gay. As these two unforgettable characters try to bring their different worlds together, Hodgman reveals the challenges of Betty's life and his own struggle for self-respect, moving readers from their small town--crumbling but still colorful--to the star-studded corridors of Vanity Fair. Evocative of The End of Your Life Book Club and The Tender Bar , Hodgman's New York Times bestselling debut is both an indelible portrait of a family and an exquisitely told tale of a prodigal son's return.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond FearGilbert, Elizabeth
Elizabeth Gilbert "offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the "strange jewels" that are hidden within each of us."-- Provided by publisher.
Born a CrimeNoah, Trevor
The host of The Daily Show With Trevor Noah traces his wild coming of age during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed, offering insight into the farcical aspects of the political and social systems of today's world.
Funds for this kit were generously donated by the Edmonds Lutheran Book Club. To donate funds for book kits, please contact the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation.
Bosnia List, TheTrebincevic, Kenan
A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return. "A young survivor of the Bosnian War returns to his homeland to confront the people who betrayed his family. At age eleven, Kenan Trebincevic was a happy, karate-loving kid living with his family in the quiet Eastern European town of Brcko. Then, in the spring of 1992, war broke out and his friends, neighbors and teammates all turned on him. Pero - Kenan's beloved karate coach - showed up at his door with an AK-47, screaming: "You have one hour to leave or be killed!" Kenan's only crime: he was Muslim. This poignant, searing memoir chronicles Kenan's miraculous escape from the brutal ethnic cleansing campaign that swept the former Yugoslavia." -Publisher description
Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, TheKamkwamba, William
A resonant, hopeful, engaging memoir showing the power of the human spirit through the author’s difficult life in Malawi and his quest to bring electricity to his village by building a windmill from scraps.
Boy Who Loved Too Much, The: A True Story of Pathological FriendlinessLatson, Jennifer
A journalist describes the story of a twelve-year-old boy suffering from Williams syndrome, a genetic, developmental disorder that makes him impervious to social inhibitions and incapable of distrust, putting him at an extreme disadvantage for life in modern times. In a vivid and sympathetic telling based on three years of immersive reporting, Jennifer Latson intertwines Eli and Gayle's story with a look a the genetic basis of behavior, revealing how insights drawn from this rare condition shine a light on what makes us all human.
Boys in the Boat, TheBrown, Daniel James
The dramatic story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics, Daniel James Brown's robust book tells the story of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together--a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism. An irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times--the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant.
ALA Notable Book
Indies' Choice Book Award
2015 Whidbey Reads selection
Bully Pulpit, TheGoodwin, Doris Kearns
...Doris Kearns Goodwin's highly anticipated The Bully Pulpit -a dynamic history of the first decade of the Progressive era, that tumultuous time when the nation was coming unseamed and reform was in the air. The story is told through the intense friendship of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft-a close relationship that strengthens both men before it ruptures in 1912, when they engage in a brutal fight for the presidential nomination that divides their wives, their children, and their closest friends, while crippling the progressive wing of the Republican Party, causing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to be elected, and changing the country's history. The Bully Pulpit is also the story of the muckraking press, which arouses the spirit of reform that helps Roosevelt push the government to shed its laissez-faire attitude toward robber barons, corrupt politicians, and corporate exploiters of our natural resources...
Call Me AmericanIftin, Abdi Nor
In this compelling, inspiring memoir, Iftin speaks candidly about his life in war-torn Somalia, his struggle to leave, and a chance encounter that changed the course of his life.
Cleopatra : A LifeSchiff, Stacy
The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt. Though her life spanned fewer than 40 years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world.
New York Times Notable
Crying in H Mart: A MemoirZauner, Michelle
In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother's particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother's tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band—and meeting the man who would become her husband—her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her. Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner's voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.
Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's AwakeningSharif, Manal
A memoir by a Saudi Arabian woman who became the unexpected leader of a movement to support women's rights describes how fundamentalism influenced her radical religious beliefs until her education, a job, and legal contradictions changed her perspectives. Daring to Drive is a remarkable celebration of resilience in the face of tyranny, the extraordinary power of education and female solidarity, and the difficulties and joys of taking the driver's seat of your own destiny. -- Inside jacket flap.
Destiny of the RepublicMillard, Candice
A narrative account of the twentieth president's political career offers insight into his background as a scholar and Civil War hero, his battles against the corrupt establishment, and Alexander Graham Bell's failed attempt to save him from an assassin'sbullet.
Diary of a misfit: a memoir and a mysteryParks, Casey
When Casey Parks came out as a lesbian in college back in 2002, she assumed her life in the rural South was over. Her mother shunned her, and her pastor asked God to kill her. But then Parks' grandmother, a stern conservative who grew up picking cotton, shared a story about her childhood friend, Roy Hudgins, a musician who was allegedly kidnapped as a baby and was "a woman who lived as a man." "Find out what happened to Roy," Casey's grandma implored. Part memoir, part investigative reporting, Diary of a Misfit is the story of Parks' life-changing journey to unravel the mysteries of Roy's life, all the while confronting ghosts of her own. For ten years, Parks knocked on strangers' doors, dug through nursing home records, and doggedly searched for Roy's own diaries, trying to uncover what Roy was like as a person-what he felt; what he thought; and how he grappled with his sense of otherness. As Parks traces Roy's story, Parks is forced to reckon with long-buried memories and emotions surrounding her own sexuality, her fraught Southern identity, her tortured yet loving relationship with her mother, and the complicated role of faith in her life. With an enormous heart and an unstinting sense of vulnerability, Parks writes about finding oneself through someone else's story, and about forging connections across the gulfs that divide us.
Dog YearsDoty, Mark
Dog Years is a remarkable work: a moving and intimate memoir interwoven with profound reflections on our feelings for animals and the lessons they teach us about life, love, and loss. Mark Doty writes about the heart-wrenching vulnerability of dogs, the positive energy and joy they bring, and the gift they bear us of unconditional love. A book unlike any other, Mark Doty's surprising meditation is radiantly unsentimental yet profoundly affecting. Beautifully written, Dog Years is a classic in the making.
Education of Augie Merasty, TheMerasty, Joseph Auguste
This memoir offers a courageous and intimate chronicle of life in a residential school. Now a retired fisherman and trapper, the author was one of an estimated 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children who were taken from their families and sent to government-funded, church-run schools, where they were subject to a policy of "aggressive assimilation." As Augie Merasty recounts, these schools did more than attempt to mold children in the ways of white society. They were taught to be ashamed of their native heritage and, as he experienced, often suffered physical and sexual abuse. But even as he looks back on this painful part of his childhood, Merasty's sense of humour and warm voice shine through.
Egg and I, TheMacDonald, Betty
When Betty MacDonald married a marine and moved to a small chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, she was largely unprepared for the rigors of life in the wild. With no running water, no electricity, a house in need of constant repair, and days that ran from four in the morning to nine at night, the MacDonalds had barely a moment to put their feet up and relax. And then came the children. Yet through every trial and pitfall—through chaos and catastrophe—this indomitable family somehow, mercifully, never lost its sense of humor. A beloved literary treasure for more than half a century, Betty MacDonald's The Egg and I is a heartwarming and uproarious account of adventure and survival on an American frontier.
Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of An Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War IICroke, Vicki
At the onset of World War II, Williams formed Elephant Company and was instrumental in defeating the Japanese in Burma and saving refugees, including on his own "Hannibal Trek." Billy Williams became a media sensation during the war, telling reporters that the elephants did more for him than he was ever able to do for them, but his story has since been forgotten. Part biography, part war story, and part wildlife adventure, Croke delivers an utterly charming narrative and an important, little-known piece of the legacy of World War II"-- Provided by publisher.
New York Time Notable
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee
Emergency, The: a year of healing and heartbreak in a Chicago ERFisher, Thomas
Thomas Fisher was raised on the South Side of Chicago and even as a kid understood how close death could feel -- he came from a family of pioneering doctors who believed in staying in the community, but on those streets he saw just how vulnerable Black bodies could be. Determined to follow his family's legacy, Fisher studied public health at Dartmouth and Harvard, then returned to the University of Chicago Medical School. As soon as he graduated, he began working in the ER that served his South Side community. Even as his career took him to stints at the White House, working on what would eventually become the Affordable Care Act and helping develop HMOs for under served communities, he never gave up his ER rotations. He knew that to really understand healthcare disparities and medical needs, you had to stay close. The emergency room is designed for the most urgent cases, but it is often the first resort for South Side residents without any other choice. Fisher deals with those patients with necessary dispatch, but what he really wants to do is to spend his time helping them understand how it is they ended up in the ER -- talk to them about the role economics plays in their health; the history of healthcare for the poor and marginalized; why Black people in particular distrust the medical profession; why they don't have a personal physician; the effect of food deserts and education gaps on their health; and, most of all, why they live in a society that has deemed their bodies and lives as less important than others. In this book he gets to have those lost conversations. This is the story of a dramatic year in the life of the Chicago ER -- a year of an unprecedented pandemic and a ferocious epidemic of homicides -- interwoven with the primer in healthcare one doctor wishes he could give his patients. Full of day-to-day drama, heartbreaking stories, compelling personal narrative, and penetrating analysis of our most fundamental failure as a society, this is a page-turning and mind-opening work that will offer readers a fresh vision of healthcare as a foundation of social justice.
Empathy Exams, TheJamison, Leslie
From personal loss to phantom diseases, a bold and brilliant collection, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize
A Publishers Weekly Top Ten Essay Collection of Spring 2014 Beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison's visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about each other? How can we feel another's pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? By confronting pain--real and imagined, her own and others'--Jamison uncovers a personal and cultural urgency to feel. She draws from her own experiences of illness and bodily injury to engage in an exploration that extends far beyond her life, spanning wide-ranging territory--from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration--in its search for a kind of sight shaped by humility and grace.
End of Your Life Book Club, TheSchwalbe, Will
"What are you reading?" That's the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a humanitarian trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan suffering from what her doctors believed was a rare type of hepatitis. Months later she was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less. This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a "book club" that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isnt the opposite of doing; its the opposite of dying. Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other- and rediscover their lives-through their favorite books. When they read, they arent a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together. The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Wills love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page.
Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War IIBrown, Daniel James
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Boys in the Boat, a gripping World War II saga of patriotism and courage: the special Japanese-American Army unit that overcame brutal odds in Europe; their families, incarcerated in camps back home; and a young man who refused to surrender his constitutional rights, even if it meant imprisonment. They came from across the continent and Hawaii. Their parents taught them to embrace both their Japanese heritage and the ways of their American homeland. They faced bigotry, yet they believed in their bright futures as American citizens. But within days of Pearl Harbor, the FBI was ransacking their houses and locking up their fathers. Within months many would themselves be living in internment camps. Facing the Mountain is an unforgettable chronicle of war-time America and the battlefields of Europe. Based on Daniel James Brown's extensive interviews with the families of the protagonists as well as deep archival research, it portrays the kaleidoscopic journey of four Japanese-American families and their sons, who volunteered for 442nd Regimental Combat Team and were deployed to France, Germany, and Italy, where they were asked to do the near impossible. But this is more than a war story. Brown also tells the story of these soldiers' parents, immigrants who were forced to shutter the businesses, surrender their homes, and submit to life in concentration camps on U.S. soil. Woven throughout is the chronicle of a brave young man, one of a cadre of patriotic resisters who stood up against their government in defense of their own rights. Whether fighting on battlefields or in courtrooms, these were Americans under unprecedented strain, doing what Americans do best--striving, resisting, pushing back, rising up, standing on principle, laying down their lives, and enduring. Longlisted for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography
Forty Autumns: A Family's Story of Courage and Survival on Both Sides of the Berlin WallWillner, Nina
"In this illuminating and deeply moving memoir, a former American military intelligence officer goes beyond traditional Cold War espionage tales to tell the true story of her family--of five women separated by the Iron Curtain for more than forty years, and their miraculous reunion after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Forty Autumns makes visceral the pain and longing of one family forced to live apart in a world divided by two. A personal look at a tenuous era that divided a city and a nation, and continues to haunt us, Forty Autumns is an intimate and beautifully written story of courage, resilience, and love--of five women whose spirits could not be broken, and who fought to preserve what matters most: family." -publisher description
From the Ashes: my story of being Metis, homeless and finding my wayThistle, Jesse
In his memoir, Jesse Thistle writes about his experiences as a child abandoned by his parents and placed in foster care, his self-destructive cycle of drug addiction, petty crime and homelessness, and how he managed to turn his life around through education and perseverance. Winner, Kobo Emerging Writer Prize Nonfiction *Winner, Indigenous Voices Awards *Winner, High Plains Book Awards *Finalist, CBC Canada Reads *A Globe and Mail Book of the Year *A CBC Best Canadian Nonfiction Book of the Year
Gentleman Jack: The Real Anne ListerChoma, Anne
Fans of the HBO series and history buffs alike will enjoy this fascinating biography of an extraordinary, highly intelligent woman who made history by defying convention and following her passions.
Going ClearWright, Lawrence
"Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with both current and former Scientologists--both famous and less well known--and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative skills to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology: its origins in the imagination of science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard; its struggles to find acceptance as a legitimate (and legally acknowledged) religion; its vast, secret campaign to infiltrate the U.S. government; its vindictive treatment of critics; its phenomenal wealth; and its dramatic efforts to grow and prevail after the death of Hubbard"--From publisher description.
H is for HawkMacdonald, Helen
When Helen Macdonald's father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer-Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood-she'd never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk's fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White's chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself "in the hawk's wild mind to tame her" tested the limits of Macdonald's humanity and changed her life. Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer's eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator.
HannibalHunt, Patrick N.
One of the greatest commanders of the ancient world brought vividly to life: Hannibal, the brilliant general who successfully crossed the Alps with his war elephants and brought Rome to its knees. To this day Hannibal is still regarded as a military genius. Napoleon, George Patton, and Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. are only some of the generals who studied and admired him. His strategy and tactics are still taught in military academies. He is one of the figures of the ancient world whose life and exploits never fail to impress. Historian Patrick N. Hunt has led archeological expeditions in the Alps and elsewhere to study Hannibal's achievements. Now he brings Hannibal's incredible story to life in this riveting and dramatic book.
Heart of Everything That Is, TheDrury, Bob
An astonishing untold story of the American West The great Sioux warrior-statesman Red Cloud was the only American Indian in history to defeat the United States Army in a war, forcing the government to sue for peace on his terms. At the peak of Red Cloud's powers the Sioux could claim control of one-fifth of the contiguous United States and the loyalty of thousands of fierce fighters. But the fog of history has left Red Cloud strangely obscured. Now, thanks to the rediscovery of a lost autobiography, and painstaking research by two award-winning authors, the story of our nation's most powerful and successful Indian warrior can finally be told. This fiery narrative, fueled by contemporary diaries and journals, newspaper reports, eyewitness accounts, and meticulous firsthand sourcing, is a stirring chronicle of the conflict between an expanding white civilization and the Plains Indians who stood in its way. The Heart of Everything That Is not only places the reader at the center of this remarkable epoch, but finally gives Red Cloud the modern-day recognition he deserves.
Heavy: An American MemoirLaymon, Kiese
In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to time in New York as a college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. (Adapted from publisher description)
Finalist, 2018 Kirkus Prize
Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation Into SpaceLee Shetterly, Margot
Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as "Human Computers," calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these "colored computers," as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America's fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Kit donated by the Coupeville "One Thing" Book Group.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of A Family and Culture in CrisisVance, J. D.
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans and a story of how upward mobility really feels. An urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country, J. D. Vance tells the his story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.
Prose Bowl Contender
House of Hope and Fear, TheYoung, Audrey
Opening with the view of an idealistic young doctor entering her first post-graduate job, The House of Hope and Fear explores not only the personal journey of one doctor's life and career but also the health care system as a whole. The setting is Seattle's Harborview Hospital.
"Gay has written ... about food and bodies, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as 'wildly undisciplined,' Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care"--Amazon.com.
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, TheSkloot, Rebecca
Documents the story of how scientists took cells from an unsuspecting descendant of freed slaves and created a human cell line that has been kept alive indefinitely, enabling discoveries in such areas as cancer research, in vitro fertilization and gene mapping. Includes reading-group guide. A best-selling book.
In the DarkroomFaludi, Susan
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Susan Faludi had barely heard from her father Steven for over 20 years when she received an email in which Steven came out as transgender. Now called Stefánie Faludi, she wanted to make her daughter's acquaintance all over again. In the Darkroom explores Stefánie's life, beginning in Budapest after World War I. Susan based this biography on recollections from her childhood, conversations and correspondence with Stefánie, as well as interviews with other family members and friends, Stefánie's surgeon, and other transgender women. In this fascinating account, Susan disentangles fact from fiction in Stefánie's recollections, painting a moving and insightful portrait. -- Description by Katherine Bradley Johnson.
ALA Notable Book
New York Times Notable Book
In the Garden of BeastsLarson, Erik
In this readable narrative, author Larson (The Devil in the White City, Thunderstruck) offers a real-life, eyewitness perspective inside the Nazi hierarchy as Hitler came to power. William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered professor from Chicago, became the first US ambassador to Hitler's Germany in 1933. Dodd, his wife, their son, and their 24-year-old daughter Martha lived in Germany for about five years. Drawing on Martha's diaries and letters, much of the book centers on Martha's romantic affairs with high-ranking Nazi officials and her eventual heroism as she realized Hitler's true character. Meanwhile, her father William Dodd informed the US State Department of increasing Jewish persecution, with little response from the State Department. The book sheds light on why it took so long for the world to recognize the threat posed by Hitler. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Indifferent Stars Above, The: The Harrowing Saga of the Donner PartyBrown, Daniel James
In April of 1846, twenty-one-year-old Sarah Graves, intent on a better future, set out west from Illinois with her new husband, her parents, and eight siblings. Seven months later, after joining a party of pioneers led by George Donner, they reached the Sierra Nevada Mountains as the first heavy snows of the season closed the pass ahead of them. In early December, starving and desperate, Sarah and fourteen others set out for California on snowshoes, and, over the next thirty-two days, endured almost unfathomable hardships and horrors.
Just MercyStevenson, Bryan
A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice--from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn't commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship--and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever. Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer's coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.
Lab GirlJahren, Hope
"In Lab Girl, Jahren traces her path from an early infatuation with the natural world to her hard-earned triumphs as a scientist recognized for breakthrough contributions to her field. She braids together stories of her emotional and professional challenges, of the bond with her odd and brilliant lab partner who helped her persevere, and descriptions of plant life that, at once lyrical and precise, reveal the unseen processes driving the natural world. Through these different perspectives, she draws unexpected connections between plants and the people whose lives depend on them that will make you see both realms in a new light." -from the publisher
National Book Critics Circle Award
New York Times Notable Book
Science Books and Films Prize for Excellence in Science Books
Language of Kindness, TheWatson, Christie
Christie Watson spent twenty years as a nurse, and in this intimate, poignant, and powerful book, she opens the doors of the hospital and shares its secrets. This memoir follows Watson through her training and career, her own father’s long ordeal with cancer, and the other nurses she’s encountered who have inspired and informed her. For fans of
Lemon Tree, The: an Arab, a Jew, and the heart of the Middle EastTolan, Sandy
Describes how a simple act of faith and the relationship between two families - one Israeli, one Palestinian - represents a personal microcosm of decades of Israeli-Palestinian history and symbolizes the hope for peace in the Middle East.
Liar, Temptress, Soldier SpyAbbott, Karen
After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O'Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.
Life from ScratchMartin, Sasha
It was a culinary journey like no other: Over the course of 195 weeks, food writer and blogger Sasha Martin set out to cook--and eat--a meal from every country in the world. As cooking unlocked the memories of her rough-and-tumble childhood and the loss and heartbreak that came with it, Martin became more determined than ever to find peace and elevate her life through the prism of food and world cultures. From the tiny, makeshift kitchen of her eccentric, creative mother to a string of foster homes to the house from which she launches her own cooking adventure, Martin's heartfelt, brutally honest memoir reveals the power of cooking to bond, to empower, and to heal--and celebrates the simple truth that happiness is created from within.
Life in the GardenLively, Penelope
Written like a conversation with a friend, this is a charming and poetic memoir delighting in all things gardening, from history to literature to psychology to the simple joy of a day’s labor.
Long Way Gone, ABeah, Ishmael
This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived. In A Long Way Gone , Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he'd been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.
Booklist Editors' Choice
New York Times Notable Book