Despite a pound cake in the oven and another episode of the Hatfield & McCoy miniseries debuting the same night, we had a lively discussion about the different books we've been reading. Books were literally swapped across the table so if you're looking for something new to read or recommendations, this reading group is the place to be! Here's a rundown of the selections:
Footprints by Brooke Astor
Published in 1980 when she was 78 years old, Brooke Astor recounts her childhood in China, her three marriages, and her career as an editor, with sketches of her friends, family, and the times.
Our discussion of Astor's autobiography led to talk of the senior abuse scandal that plagued her final years. For more on the final years of her life, read Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach by Meryl Gordon
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a New York Times bestseller, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.
In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.
The Story of a Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
It is 1968. Lynnie, a young white woman with a developmental disability, and Homan, an African American deaf man, are locked away in an institution, the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, and have been left to languish, forgotten. Deeply in love, they escape, and find refuge in the farmhouse of Martha, a retired schoolteacher and widow. But the couple is not alone-Lynnie has just given birth to a baby girl. When the authorities catch up to them that same night, Homan escapes into the darkness, and Lynnie is caught. But before she is forced back into the institution, she whispers two words to Martha: "Hide her." And so begins the 40-year epic journey of Lynnie, Homan, Martha, and baby Julia-lives divided by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, yet drawn together by a secret pact and extraordinary love.
A Little Bit Wild by Victoria Dahl
Jude Bertrand is not an excellent dancer. Nor does he wear the most fashionable coats. But when Marissa York's brother approaches him, desperate to preserve Marissa's tenuous reputation, Jude does prove heroic enough to offer to marry the girl. In fact, the union should more than make up for his lack of social graces - and his own scandalous past...Marissa knows that betrothal to the son of a duke - even one as raw and masculine as Jude - will save her from ruin, but that doesn't mean she's happy about it. Soon, though, she finds that Jude has a surprisingly gentle touch - and plans to use it to persuade Marissa that their wedding day cannot come soon enough...
Titanic Love Stories:: The True Stories of 13 Honeymoon Couples Who Sailed on the Titanic by Gill Paul
On April 10, 1912, the new RMS Titanic set sail on her fateful voyage from Southampton to New York. Among those on board were 13 newly-wed couples – some simply enjoying the trip of a lifetime, others crossing to America with dreams of starting a new life together. Titanic Love Stories tells the tales of these honeymooners. Featuring haunting portraits of all the sweethearts, these true stories of love, tragedy, heroism, and hope are more remarkable than any work of romantic fiction.
The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-town America by Bill Bryson
"I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to."
And, as soon as Bill Bryson was old enough, he left. Des Moines couldn't hold him, but it did lure him back. After ten years in England he returned to the land of his youth, and drove almost 14,000 miles in search of a mythical small town called Amalgam, the kind of smiling village where the movies from his youth were set. Instead he drove through a series of horrific burgs, which he renamed Smellville, Fartville, Coleslaw, Coma, and Doldrum. At best his search led him to Anywhere, USA, a lookalike strip of gas stations, motels and hamburger outlets populated by obese and slow-witted hicks with a partiality for synthetic fibres. He discovered a continent that was doubly lost: lost to itself because he found it blighted by greed, pollution, mobile homes and television; lost to him because he had become a foreigner in his own country.
An inspiring and hilarious account of one man's rediscovery of America and his search for the perfect small town.
An inspiring and hilarious account of one man's rediscovery of America and his search for the perfect small town.
The Noticer by Andy Andrews
Orange Beach, Alabama, is a simple town filled with simple people. But like all humans on the planet, the good folks of Orange Beach have their share of problems-marriages teetering on the brink of divorce, young adults giving up on life, business people on the verge of bankruptcy, as well as the many other obstacles that life seems to dish out to the masses.
Fortunately, when things look the darkest, a mysterious man named Jones has a miraculous way of showing up. An elderly man with white hair, of indiscriminate age and race, wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt and leather flip flops carrying a battered old suitcase, Jones is a unique soul. Communicating what he calls "a little perspective," he explains that he has been given a gift of noticing things that others miss. "Your time on this earth is a gift to be used wisely," he says. "Don't squander your words or your thoughts. Consider even the simplest action you take, for your lives matter beyond measure…and they matter forever."
Jones speaks to that part in everyone that is yearning to understand why things happen and what we can do about it.
Like The Traveler's Gift, The Noticer is a unique narrative blend of fiction, allegory, and inspiration in which gifted storyteller Andy Andrews helps us see how becoming a "noticer" just might change a person's life forever.
Pearl's Secret: a Black Man's Search for his White Family by Neil Henry
Pearl's Secret is a remarkable autobiography and family story that combines elements of history, investigative reporting, and personal narrative in a riveting, true-to-life mystery. In it, Neil Henry--a black professor of journalism and former award-winning correspondent for the Washington Post--sets out to piece together the murky details of his family's past. His search for the white branch of his family becomes a deeply personal odyssey, one in which Henry deploys all of his journalistic skills to uncover the paper trail that leads to blood relations who have lived for more than a century on the opposite side of the color line. At the same time Henry gives a powerful and vivid account of his black family's rise to success over the twentieth century. Throughout the course of this gripping story the author reflects on the part that racism and racial ignorance have played in his daily life--from his boyhood in largely white Seattle to his current role as a parent and educator in California.
The contemporary debate over the significance of Thomas Jefferson's longtime romantic relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings, and recent DNA evidence that points to his role as the father of black descendants, have revealed the importance and volatility of the issue of dual-race legacies in American society. As Henry uncovers the dramatic history of his great-great-grandfather--a white English immigrant who fought as a Confederate officer in the Civil War, found success during Reconstruction as a Louisiana plantation owner, and enjoyed a long love affair with Henry's great-great-grandmother, a freed black slave--he grapples with an unsettling ambivalence about what he is trying to do. His straightforward, honest voice conveys both the pain and the exhilaration that his revelations bring him about himself, his family, and our society. In the book's stunning climax, the author finally meets his white kin, hears their own remarkable story of survival in America, and discovers a great deal about both the sting of racial prejudice as it is woven into the fabric of the nation, and his own proud identity as a teacher, father, and black American.
Pym by Mat Johnson
Recently canned professor of American literature Chris Jaynes is obsessed with The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Edgar Allan Poe’s strange and only novel. When he discovers the manuscript of a crude slave narrative that seems to confirm the reality of Poe’s fiction, he resolves to seek out Tsalal, the remote island of pure and utter blackness that Poe describes with horror. Jaynes imagines it to be the last untouched bastion of the African Diaspora and the key to his personal salvation.
He convenes an all-black crew of six to follow Pym’s trail to the South Pole in search of adventure, natural resources to exploit, and, for Jaynes at least, the mythical world of the novel. With little but the firsthand account from which Poe derived his seafaring tale, a bag of bones, and a stash of Little Debbie snack cakes, Jaynes embarks on an epic journey under the permafrost of Antarctica, beneath the surface of American history, and behind one of literature’s great mysteries. He finds that here, there be monsters.
We also had an etiquette layover from the last meeting - this one received a rave review:
How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World by Jordan Christy
In a society driven by celebutante news and myspace profiles, women of class, style and charm are hard to come by. The Audrey and Katharines of the world continue to lose their luster as thongs, rehab and outrageous behavior burn up the daily headlines. But, despite appearances, guys still want a girl they can take home to their mom, employers still like to see a tailored suit and peers still respect classy conduct. So is it possible to maintain old fashioned virtues in a modern world without looking like a starchy Amish grandma? Christy shows women how in this guide to glamorous style, professional success and true love...the classy way.
Full of fun assignments, notable names and real-life examples, Christy offers a new look at seemingly "old fashioned" advice. She covers diet, speech, work ethic, friends, relationships, manners, makeup, and fashionable yet modest clothing, showing modern ladies how they can be beautiful, intelligent and fun while retaining values and morals.