Thursday, May 6, 2021

Celebrating Asian Voices


May is Asian Pacific American Heritage!

Generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders have enriched America’s history and these authors’ new books are enriching American literature:

Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen

Named one of the “Fifteen Books to Watch for in May” by The New York Time, Nguyen’s narrative strikes a very elusive balance: vast in scale and ambition, while luscious and inviting. 

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

"Sutanto brilliantly infuses comedy and culture into the unpredictable rom-com/murder mystery mashup as Meddy navigates familial duty, possible arrest and a groomzilla. I laughed out loud and you will too.”—USA Today

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

From the indie rockstar of Japanese Breakfast fame, and author of the viral 2018 New Yorker essay that shares the title of this book, an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.

First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami

“Some novelists hold a mirror up to the world and some, like Haruki Murakami, use the mirror as a portal to a universe hidden beyond it.” —The Wall Street Journal

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

A magnificent new novel from the Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro—author of Never Let Me Go and the Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day.

Speak, Okinawa by Elizabeth Miki Brina

A searing, deeply candid memoir about a young woman's journey to understanding her complicated parents—her mother an Okinawan war bride, her father a Vietnam veteran—and her own, fraught cultural heritage.

My Year Abroad by Chang-rae Lee

“A manifesto to happiness—the one found when you stop running from who you are.” –New York Times Book Review

Inheritors by Asako Serizawa

From the O. Henry Prize-winning author comes a heartbreakingly beautiful and brutal exploration of lives fragmented by the Pacific side of World War II.

How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C. Pam Zhang

An electric debut novel set against the twilight of the American gold rush, two siblings are on the run in an unforgiving landscape—trying not just to survive but to find a home.

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

A ruthlessly honest, emotionally charged, and utterly original exploration of Asian American consciousness

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is a shattering portrait of a family, a first love, and the redemptive power of storytelling

Saturday, May 1, 2021

award winning mysteries


Last week, the Mystery Writers of America announced the winners of the 2021 Edgar Awards, one of the mystery world’s premier honors. This year marks the 75th annual presentation of the awards.



Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara WINNER
Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney
Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
These Women by Ivy Pochoda
The Missing American by Kwei Quartey
The Distant Dead by Heather Young



Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March
Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen WINNER
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden
Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel



When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole WINNER
The Deep, Deep Snow by Brian Freeman
Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey
The Keeper by Jessica Moor
East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman



Blood Runs Coal: The Yablonski Murders and the Battle for the United Mine Workers of America by Mark A. Bradley

The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia by Emma Copley Eisenberg

 Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight Against the Drug Companies that Delivered the Opioid Epidemic by Eric Eyre WINNER

Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country by Sierra Crane Murdoch

Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man, and the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife by Ariel Sabar



Howdunit: A Masterclass in Crime Writing by Members of the Detection Club edited by Martin Edwards

Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock by Christina Lane WINNER

Ian Rankin: A Companion to the Mystery & Fiction by Erin E. MacDonald

Guilt Rules All:  Irish Mystery, Detective, and Crime Fiction by Elizabeth Mannion & Brian Cliff

This Time Next Year We’ll be Laughing by Jacqueline Winspear



Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce WINNER
Me and Banksy by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor
Nessie Quest by Melissa Savage
Coop Knows the Scoop by Taryn Souders



The Companion by Katie Alender WINNER
The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
They Went Left by Monica Hesse
Silence of Bones by June Hur
The Cousins by Karen M. McManus



“Episode 1, The Stranger” – Harlan Coben’s The Stranger, Written by Danny Brocklehurst (Netflix)
“Episode 1, Open Water” – The Sounds, Written by Sarah-Kate Lynch (Acorn TV)
“Episode 1, Photochemistry” – Dead Still, Written by John Morton (Acorn TV) WINNER
“Episode 1” – Des, Written by Luke Neal (Sundance Now)
“What I Know” – The Boys, Written by Rebecca Sonnenshine, based on the comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson (Amazon)


“The Bite,” Tampa Bay Noir by Colette Bancroft



Death of an American Beauty by Mariah Fredericks
The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart WINNER
The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day
The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Cold Wind by Paige Shelton



The Burn by Kathleen Kent
Riviera Gold by Laurie R. King
Vera Kelly Is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht WINNER
Dead Land by Sara Paretsky
The Sleeping Nymph by Ilaria Tuti
Turn to Stone by James W. Ziskin


Jeffery Deaver

Charlaine Harris


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

International Authors


The next Genre Reading Group will be Tuesday, May 25th at 6:30pm on Zoom and there is no assigned topic.  Read, watch, or listen to whatever you’d like, and come tell us about it!  For more information, call or email Holley at 205-445-1117 or  Register your email to participate:

Last night, GRG met to discuss international authors, so prepare for a trip around the world!


It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian

Of all the women and men Noni Blake has pleased in her life, there’s one she’s often overlooked—herself. After the end of a decade-long relationship, Noni decides it’s time for that to change. She’s finally going to prioritize her wants and desires and only do things (and people) that feel good in the moment. As she embarks on a pleasure-seeking quest that takes her halfway around the world, she discovers that maybe she can have everything, and everyone, she’s ever wanted.

Effortlessly hilarious and relatable, Claire Christian spins a fresh, uplifting story about starting over as a thirtysomething woman who’s been living life for everyone else. A story of self-discovery for the ages, Noni’s journey serves as a reminder that life is what we make of it—so why not enjoy it?

Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Spanning three continents, Butter Honey Pig Bread tells the interconnected stories of three Nigerian women: Kambirinachi and her twin daughters, Kehinde and Taiye. Kambirinachi believes that she is an Ogbanje, or an Abiku, a non-human spirit that plagues a family with misfortune by being born and then dying in childhood to cause a human mother misery. She has made the unnatural choice of staying alive to love her human family but lives in fear of the consequences of her decision.

Kambirinachi and her two daughters become estranged from one another because of a trauma that Kehinde experiences in childhood, which leads her to move away and cut off all contact. She ultimately finds her path as an artist and seeks to raise a family of her own, despite her fear that she won’t be a good mother. Meanwhile, Taiye is plagued by guilt for what her sister suffered and also runs away, attempting to fill the void of that lost relationship with casual flings with women. She eventually discovers a way out of her stifling loneliness through a passion for food and cooking.

But now, after more than a decade of living apart, Taiye and Kehinde have returned home to Lagos. It is here that the three women must face each other and address the wounds of the past if they are to reconcile and move forward. For readers of African diasporic authors such as Teju Cole and Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieButter Honey Pig Bread is a story of choices and their consequences, of motherhood, of the malleable line between the spirit and the mind, of finding new homes and mending old ones, of voracious appetites, of queer love, of friendship, faith, and above all, family.

One World: A Global Anthology of Short Stories

This book is made up of twenty-three stories, each from a different author from across the globe. All belong to one world, united in their diversity and ethnicity. And together they have one aim: to involve and move the reader. The range of authors takes in such literary greats as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jhumpa Lahiri, and emerging authors such as Elaine Chiew, Petina Gappah, and Henrietta Rose-Innes.

Summerwater by Sarah Moss

At daylight, a mother races up the mountain, fleeing into her precious dose of solitude. A retired man studies her return as he reminisces about the park’s better days. A young woman wonders about his politics as she sees him head for a drive with his wife, and tries to find a moment away from her attentive boyfriend. A teenage boy escapes the scrutiny of his family, braving the dark waters of the loch in a kayak. This cascade of perspective shows each wrapped up in personal concerns, unknown to each other, as they begin to notice one particular family that doesn’t seem to belong. Tensions rise, until nightfall brings an irrevocable turn.

Crimson Lake by Candice Fox

Six minutes in the wrong place at the wrong time―that’s all it took to ruin Sydney detective Ted Conkaffey’s life. Accused but not convicted of a brutal abduction, Ted is now a free man―and public enemy number one. Maintaining his innocence, he flees north to keep a low profile amidst the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake.

There, Ted’s lawyer introduces him to eccentric private investigator Amanda Pharrell, herself a convicted murderer. Not entirely convinced Amanda is a cold-blooded killer, Ted agrees to help with her investigation, a case full of deception and obsession, while secretly digging into her troubled past. The residents of Crimson Lake are watching the pair's every move . . . and the town offers no place to hide.

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

Luc O'Donnell is tangentially―and reluctantly―famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he's never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad's making a comeback, Luc's back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship...and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He's a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he's never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately, apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened. But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that's when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don't ever want to let them go.

Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced, single mother who thought she had finally escaped her abusive ex-husband Togashi. When he shows up one day to extort money from her, threatening both her and her teenaged daughter Misato, the situation quickly escalates into violence and Togashi ends up dead on her apartment floor. Overhearing the commotion, Yasuko's nextdoor neighbor, middle-aged high school mathematics teacher Ishigami, offers his help, disposing not only of the body but plotting the cover-up step-by-step.

When the body turns up and is identified, Detective Kusanagi draws the case and Yasuko comes under suspicion. Kusanagi is unable to find any obvious holes in Yasuko's manufactured alibi and yet is still sure that there's something wrong. What ensues is a high-level battle of wits, as the suspects try to outmaneuver and outthink Yukawa, who faces his most clever and determined opponent yet.

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his estranged father’s funeral takes place. On the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death. The case calls Matthew back to the people and places of his past, as deadly secrets hidden at their hearts are revealed, and his new life is forced into a collision course with the world he thought he’d left behind.

Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart

Li Du was an imperial librarian. Now, he is an exile. Arriving in Dayan, the last Chinese town before the Tibetan border, he is surprised to find it teeming with travelers, soldiers, and merchants. All have come for a spectacle unprecedented in this remote province: an eclipse of the sun commanded by the Emperor himself. When a Jesuit astronomer is found murdered in the home of the local magistrate, blame is hastily placed on Tibetan bandits. But Li Du suspects this was no random killing.

Everyone has secrets: the ambitious magistrate, the powerful consort, the bitter servant, the irreproachable secretary, the East India Company merchant, the nervous missionary, and the traveling storyteller who can't keep his own story straight. Beyond the sloping roofs and festival banners, Li Du can see the mountain pass that will take him out of China forever. He must choose whether to leave and embrace his exile, or to stay and investigate a murder that the town of Dayan seems all too willing to forget.

French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes, and Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano

From the author of French Women Don't Get Fat, the #1 National Bestseller, comes an essential guide to the art of joyful living—in moderation, in season, and, above all, with pleasure.

Peaches for Father Frances by Joanne Harris

Even before it was adapted into the Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, Joanne Harris’s Chocolat entranced readers with its mix of hedonism, whimsy, and, of course, chocolate. Now, at last, Chocolat’s heroine returns to the beautiful French village of Lansquenet in another, equally beguiling tale.

When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she has no choice but to return to Lansquenet, where she once owned a chocolate shop and learned the meaning of home. But returning to one’s past can be a dangerous pursuit, and Vianne and her daughters find the beautiful French village changed in unexpected ways: women veiled in black, the scent of spices in the air, and—facing the church—a minaret. Most surprising of all, her old nemesis, Francis Reynaud, desperately needs her help. Can Vianne work her magic once again?

The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke

In all the years that Elinora Gassbeek has been matron of the Little Tulip Orphanage, not once have the Rules for Baby Abandonment been broken. Until the autumn of 1880, when five babies are left in outrageous circumstances; one in a tin toolbox, one in a coal bucket, one in a picnic hamper, one in a wheat sack, and finally, one in a coffin-shaped basket. Those babies were Lotta, Egg, Fenna, Sem, and Milou. And although their cruel matron might think they're "unadoptable," they know their individuality is what makes them special--and so determined to stay together.

When a most sinister gentleman appears and threatens to tear them apart, the gang make a daring escape across the frozen canals of Amsterdam. But is their real home--and their real family--already closer than they realize?

Catherine’s War by Julia Billet

A magnificent narrative inspired by a true survival story that asks universal questions about a young girl’s coming of age story, her identity, her passions, and her first loves.

At the Sèvres Children’s Home outside Paris, Rachel Cohen has discovered her passion—photography. Although she hasn’t heard from her parents in months, she loves the people at her school, adores capturing what she sees in pictures, and tries not to worry too much about Hitler’s war. But as France buckles under the Nazi regime, danger closes in, and Rachel must change her name and go into hiding.

As Catherine Colin, Rachel Cohen is faced with leaving the Sèvres Home—and the friends she made there—behind. But with her beautiful camera, Catherine possesses an object with the power to remember. For the rest of the war, Catherine bears witness to her own journey, and to the countless heroes whose courage and generosity saved the lives of many, including her own.

Based on the author’s mother’s own experiences as a hidden child in France during World War II, Catherine’s War is one of the most accessible historical graphic novels featuring a powerful girl since Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi—perfect for fans of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, Anne Frank, or Helen Keller.

The Cook by Maylis de Kerangal

More like a poetic biographical essay on a fictional person than a novel, The Cook is a coming-of-age journey centered on Mauro, a young self-taught cook. The story is told by an unnamed female narrator, Mauro’s friend and disciple who we also suspect might be in love with him. Set not only in Paris but in Berlin, Thailand, Burma, and other far-flung places over the course of fifteen years, the book is hyperrealistic―to the point of feeling, at times, like a documentary. It transcends this simplistic form, however, through the lyricism and intensely vivid evocative nature of Maylis de Kerangal’s prose, which conjures moods, sensations, and flavors, as well as the exhausting rigor and sometimes violent abuses of kitchen work.

In The Cook, we follow Mauro as he finds his path in life: baking cakes as a child; cooking for his friends as a teenager; a series of studies, jobs, and travels; a failed love affair; a successful business; a virtual nervous breakdown; and―at the end―a rediscovery of his hunger for cooking, his appetite for life.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

One of Oprah’s Best Books of the Year and a PEN/Hemingway award winner, Homegoing follows the parallel paths of two sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.

The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela, edited by Sahm Venter

Arrested in 1962 as South Africa’s apartheid regime intensified its brutal campaign against political opponents, forty-four-year-old lawyer and African National Congress activist Nelson Mandela had no idea that he would spend the next twenty-seven years in jail. During his 10,052 days of incarceration, the future leader of South Africa wrote a multitude of letters to unyielding prison authorities, fellow activists, government officials, and, most memorably, to his courageous wife, Winnie, and his five children. Now, 255 of these letters, many of which have never been published, provide exceptional insight into how Mandela maintained his inner spirits while living in almost complete isolation, and how he engaged with an outside world that became increasingly outraged by his plight.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

In the late 1930s, civil war grips Spain. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. In order to survive, the two must unite in a marriage neither of them desires.

Together with two thousand other refugees, Roser and Victor embark for Chile on the SS Winnipeg, a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda: “the long petal of sea and wine and snow.” As unlikely partners, the couple embraces exile as the rest of Europe erupts in world war. Starting over on a new continent, they face trial after trial, but they will also find joy as they patiently await the day when they might go home. Through it all, their hope of returning to Spain keeps them going. Destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world, Roser and Victor will find that home might have been closer than they thought all along.

The Devil’s Dance by Hamid Ismailov

The Devils' Dance brings to life the extraordinary culture of 19th century Turkestan, a world of lavish poetry recitals, brutal polo matches, and a cosmopolitan and culturally diverse Islam rarely described in western literature. Hamid Ismailov's virtuosic prose recreates this multilingual milieu in a digressive, intricately structured novel, dense with allusion, studded with quotes and sayings, and threaded through with modern and classical poetry.

With this poignant, loving resurrection of both a culture and a literary canon brutally suppressed by a dictatorship which continues today, Ismailov demonstrates yet again his masterful marriage of contemporary international fiction and the Central Asian literary traditions, and his deserved position in the pantheon of both.


The Mildred L. Batchelder award

The Batchelder Award is awarded to a United States publisher for a children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originating in a country other than the United States and in a language other than English and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States during the preceding year.

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

For two weeks, the length of her father’s vacation, Silvie and her family join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs―particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.

The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past. What comes next but human sacrifice? A story at once mythic and strikingly timely, Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall urges us to wonder how far we have come from the “primitive minds” of our ancestors.

Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris

As a boy, writer Jay Mackintosh spent three golden summers in the ramshackle home of "Jackapple Joe" Cox. A lonely child, he found solace in Old Joe's simple wisdom and folk charms. The magic was lost, however, when Joe disappeared without warning one fall.

Years later, Jay's life is stalled with regret and ennui. His bestselling novel, Jackapple Joe, was published ten years earlier and he has written nothing since. Impulsively, he decides to leave his urban life in London and, sight unseen, purchases a farmhouse in the remote French village of Lansquenet. There, in that strange and yet strangely familiar place, Jay hopes to re-create the magic of those golden childhood summers. And while the spirit of Joe is calling to him, it is actually a similarly haunted, reclusive woman who will ultimately help Jay find himself again.

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris

When Framboise Simon returns to a small village on the banks of the Loire, the locals do not recognize her as the daughter of the infamous woman they hold responsible for a tragedy during the German occupation years ago. But the past and present are inextricably entwined, particularly in a scrapbook of recipes and memories that Framboise has inherited from her mother. And soon Framboise will realize that the journal also contains the key to the tragedy that indelibly marked that summer of her ninth year.

The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal

The book is the basis for the critically-acclaimed film, Heal the Living, directed by Katell Quillévéré and starring Tahar Rahim and Emmanuelle Seigner.

The Heart takes place over the twenty-four hours surrounding a heart transplant, as life is taken from a young man and given to a woman close to death. In gorgeous, ruminative prose, it examines the deepest feelings of everyone involved as they navigate decisions of life and death. As stylistically audacious as it is emotionally explosive, The Heart mesmerized readers in France, where it has been hailed as the breakthrough work of a new literary star. With the precision of a surgeon and the language of a poet, de Kerangal has made a major contribution to both medicine and literature with an epic tale of grief, hope, and survival.

Painting Time by Maylis de Kerangal

An enchanted, atmospheric, and highly aesthetic coming-of-age novel, Painting Time is an intimate and unsparing exploration of craft, inspiration, and the contours of the contemporary art world. As she did in her acclaimed novels The Heart and The Cook, Maylis de Kerangal unravels a tightly wound professional world to reveal the beauty within.

The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer

Learning about the threat that will destroy the world in which she lives, fourteen-year-old Merle, an orphan girl protected by the Flowing Queen and apprenticed by a magic mirror maker, heads off on a perilous journey to use her magic to put a stop to all those involved in this fantastical tale set in Venice, Italy.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief—a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi's phenomenal debut.

House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

The House of the Spirits, the unforgettable first novel that established Isabel Allende as one of the world’s most gifted storytellers, brings to life the triumphs and tragedies of three generations of the Trueba family. One of the most important novels of the twentieth century, The House of the Spirits is an enthralling epic that spans decades and lives, weaving the personal and the political into a universal story of love, magic, and fate.

…and a book I meant to tell everyone about but forgot, Animalia by Jean-Baptiste del Amo

A dramatic and chilling tale of man and beast that recalls the naturalism of writers like Émile ZolaAnimalia traverses the twentieth century as it examines man’s quest to conquer nature, critiques the legacy of modernity and the transmission of violence from one generation to the next, and questions whether we can hold out hope for redemption in this brutal world.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

book club alert


Mark your calendars to join the Lost & Found Book Club on Zoom on April 29th at 6:30pm to discuss Jean Stafford's beautiful, ironic coming-age-novel "The Mountain Lion" (1947). Register on the calendar at to receive a link to the meeting. (This meeting was to have occurred in March but, due to inclement weather, was bumped to April.)

Reserve your copy of the novel here

The eaudiobook of this novel is available to qualifying users via the Hoopla app. Hoopla titles are instantly available for residents of the cities of Birmingham, Gardendale, Homewood, Hoover, Irondale, Leeds, Mountain Brook, Pinson, Pleasant Grove, Trussville, Vestavia Hills, and Warrior only.

In the novel, eight-year-old Molly and her ten-year-old brother Ralph are inseparable, in league with each other against the stodgy and stupid routines of school and daily life; against their prim mother and prissy older sisters; against the world of authority and perhaps the world itself.

One summer they are sent from the genteel Los Angeles suburb that is their home to backcountry Colorado, where their uncle Claude has a ranch. There the children encounter an enchanting new world—savage, direct, beautiful, untamed—to which, over the next few years, they will return regularly, enjoying a delicious double life. And yet at the same time this other sphere, about which they are both so passionate, threatens to come between their singular attachment to each other. Molly dreams of growing up to be a writer, yet clings ever more fiercely to the special world of childhood. Ralph for his part feels the growing challenge, and appeal, of impending manhood. Youth and innocence are hurtling toward a devastating end.

Stafford, who published well over one hundred stories in the New Yorker, is not as well known for her novels but she is a master of both the short and long forms. Her collected stories won the Pulitzer in 1970. 

Register on the calendar at to receive a link to the meeting. Feel free to enjoy an adult beverage during our discussion! 

Save the date for upcoming Lost & Found 20th Century Classics:

The Tenant by Roland Topor on Thursday, May 27th, program registration / reserve a copy

Cane by Jean Toomer on Thursday, June 24th, program registration / reserve a copy

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

illness & disease


The next Genre Reading Group meeting is Tuesday, April 27th on Zoom at 6:30pm and the topic up for discussion is international authors.  The third row of Shelf Care has some selections to choose from if you don’t know where to start:

Last night, on GRG’s one year Zoomiversary, we met to discuss illness & disease, a timely topic in the age of COVID. Here are the books we read:

The Plague Cycle: The Unending War Between Humanity and Infectious Disease by Charles Kenney

A vivid, sweeping history of mankind’s battles with infectious disease, for readers of the #1 New York Times bestsellers Yuval Harari’s Sapiens and John Barry’s The Great Influenza.

Zombie Makers: True Stories of Natures Undead by Rebecca Johnson

Are zombies real? As far as we know, dead people do not come back to life and start walking around, looking for trouble. But there are things that can take over the bodies and brains of innocent creatures, turning them into senseless slaves. Meet nature's zombie makers―including a fly-enslaving fungus, a suicide worm, and a cockroach-taming wasp―and their victims.

Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City by Fang Fang and Michael Berry

From one of China’s most acclaimed and decorated writers comes a powerful first-person account of life in Wuhan during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John Barry

The strongest weapon against pandemic is the truth. Read why in the definitive account of the 1918 Flu Epidemic. 

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik

The most fatal virus known to science, rabies-a disease that spreads avidly from animals to humans-kills nearly one hundred percent of its victims once the infection takes root in the brain. In this critically acclaimed exploration, journalist Bill Wasik and veterinarian Monica Murphy chart four thousand years of the history, science, and cultural mythology of rabies.

Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism: My Journey as a Vaccine Scientist, Pediatrician, and Autism Dad by Peter Hotez

In 1994, Peter J. Hotez's nineteen-month-old daughter, Rachel, was diagnosed with autism. Dr. Hotez, a pediatrician-scientist who develops vaccines for neglected tropical diseases affecting the world's poorest people, became troubled by the decades-long rise of the influential anti-vaccine community and its inescapable narrative around childhood vaccines and autism.

Vaccine Nation: America’s Changing Relationship with Immunization by Elena Conis

With employers offering free flu shots and pharmacies expanding into one-stop shops to prevent everything from shingles to tetanus, vaccines are ubiquitous in contemporary life. Yet, while vaccination rates have soared and cases of preventable infections have plummeted, an increasingly vocal cross section of Americans have questioned the safety and necessity of vaccines. In Vaccine Nation, Elena Conis explores this complicated history and its consequences for personal and public health.

Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs by Michael Osterholm

A leading epidemiologist shares his "powerful and necessary" (Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone) stories from the front lines of our war on infectious diseases and explains how to prepare for global epidemics.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Winner of the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing Winner of the John Burroughs Medal Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award in Natural History Literature

In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Tova Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her encounter with a Neohelix albolabris—a common woodland snail. While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater understanding of her own place in the world.

Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poet’s Respond to the Pandemic edited by Alice Quinn

In this urgent outpouring of American voices, our poets speak to us as they shelter in place, addressing our collective fear, grief, and hope from eloquent and diverse individual perspectives.

An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System, A Tale in Four Lives by Matt Richtel

Drawing on his groundbreaking reporting for the New York Times and based on extensive new interviews with dozens of world-renowned scientists (including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), Matt Richtel has produced a landmark book, equally an investigation into the deepest riddles of survival and a profoundly human tale that is movingly brought to life through the eyes of his four main characters, each of whom illuminates an essential facet of our “elegant defense.”


Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World by Laura Spinney

In this gripping narrative history, Laura Spinney traces the overlooked pandemic to reveal how the virus travelled across the globe, exposing mankind's vulnerability and putting our ingenuity to the test. As socially significant as both world wars, the Spanish flu dramatically disrupted -- and often permanently altered -- global politics, race relations and family structures, while spurring innovation in medicine, religion and the arts.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received. But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin—barely of age herself—finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.

Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas Preston

The #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, named one of the best books of the year by The Boston Globe and National Geographic: acclaimed journalist Douglas Preston takes readers on a true adventure deep into the Honduran rainforest in this riveting narrative about the discovery of a lost civilization -- culminating in a stunning medical mystery.

Preventing the Next Pandemic: Vaccine Diplomacy in a Time of Anti-Science by Peter Hotez

The last five years saw a significant return of epidemic infectious disease, culminating in COVID-19. In our new post–COVID-19 world, how do we prevent future illnesses by expanding scientific and vaccine diplomacy and cooperation, especially to combat the problems that humans have brought on ourselves?

Blue Marble Health: An Innovative Plan to Fight Diseases of the Poor Amid Wealth by Peter Hotez

Clear, compassionate, and timely, Blue Marble Health is a must-read for leaders in global health, tropical medicine, and international development, along with anyone committed to helping the millions of people who are caught in the desperate cycle of poverty and disease.

Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates (requires a Netflix subscription, check your streaming/online rental channels for additional availability)

Take a trip inside the mind of Bill Gates as the billionaire opens up about those who influenced him and the audacious goal’s he’s still pursuing.

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

The heartrending story of a midcentury American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science's great hope in the quest to understand the disease.

The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator by Timothy Winegard

A pioneering and groundbreaking work of narrative nonfiction that offers a dramatic new perspective on the history of humankind, showing how through millennia, the mosquito has been the single most powerful force in determining humanity’s fate.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

In his bestselling books, Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon, has fearlessly revealed the struggles of his profession. Here he examines its ultimate limitations and failures―in his own practices as well as others'―as life draws to a close. Riveting, honest, and humane, Being Mortal shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life―all the way to the very end.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death by Jean-Dominique Bauby

In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, the father of two young childen, a 44-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his style, and his impassioned approach to life. By the end of the year he was also the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brainstem. After 20 days in a coma, Bauby awoke into a body which had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and, by blinking it, to make clear that his mind was unimpaired. Almost miraculously, he was soon able to express himself in the richest detail: dictating a word at a time, blinking to select each letter as the alphabet was recited to him slowly, over and over again. In the same way, he was able eventually to compose this extraordinary book.

Hidden Killers of the English Home (requires an Amazon Prime Video subscription, Check your streaming/online rental channels for additional availability)

We all know that “an Englishman’s home is his castle.” British historian Suzannah Lipscomb beckons us to get off the sofa and look closely at legendary structures from Edwardians, Victorian, Tudor, and even modern times. The myth of the historic English home, with its legendary comforts and warmth, quickly yields to a nightmare of infestations, toxic materials, and unsafe construction practices.

Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives...

Made into a feature film in late 2020. Requires a Netflix subscription, check your streaming/online rental channels for additional availability.

Suspected origins of the plague doctor mask shape:





Wednesday, March 24, 2021

spring releases


Spring has sprung, time change and all, pollen abounds, and the Spring Break holiday is here.  Challenge yourself with these recommendations from popular magazines and morning shows.

Authors Isaac Fitzgerald and Jasmine Guillory joined the TODAY show to share highly anticipated spring releases:

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

After Grace Porter finishes her PhD in Astronomy, she heads to Las Vegas to celebrate. Once there, she does something wildly out of character: drunkenly marries a woman she’s just met. This massive deviation allows her to take stock of her life and stop considering what she’s supposed to do and start considering what she wants to do.

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

Engel’s new novel tells the story of a family of five split between the United States and Colombia because of a deportation. The novel, which is structured around the family’s youngest member’s race to make it from a correctional facility in the mountains to Bogotá in time for her flight to the United States, gives voice to each member. Engel’s book coalesces into a beautiful story of determination and love.

Once Upon a Quinceanera by Monica Gomez-Hira

Guillory calls “Once Upon A Quinceanera” by Monica Gomez-Hira “a funny, absorbing, joyful, emotional powerhouse of a book. In this Young Adult novel, Carmen Aguilar struggles through an unpaid summer internship and some unpleasant familial obligations which are standing in the way of her finding her happily-ever-after.

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

In “No One Is Talking About This” by Patricia Lockwood, a woman who becomes famous for her viral tweets allows the internet to become more and more a part of her life until she is jolted back offline by a family emergency. Lockwoood’s debut novel is hilarious, incisive, and moving.

Surviving the White Gaze: A Memoir by Rebecca Carroll

Rebecca Carroll grew up as the only black person in her town, her artistic adoptive parents unprepared to support her as she needed. When she eventually met her birth mother, a white woman, her sense of identity was rocked further. In her new memoir, she shares these stories and how she ultimately created a chosen black family and found a way to heal.

Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America by Kate Washington

In this heartbreaking memoir, Kate Washington shares the story of her time acting as caregiver for her extremely ill husband. Through her experience, she exposes the sacrifices that many loved ones have to make to bolster the United States healthcare system.

Elle Magazine offers the longlisted titles vying for the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year:

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

This Booker prize 2020 shortlisted debut novel chronicles Tara, an old woman who years before fled an arranged marriage and lived a very different life to the one planned for her. Now old, and with a daughter caring for her with whom she has a complex and fraught relationship, their truths unravel together.

Consent by Annabel Lyon

The book tells the story of two pairs of sisters; In each pairing, one sister is determined and extrovert, Saskia and Jennie and Sara and Mattie. But when both sisters have a life-altering experience, 'Sara and Saskia learn that both their sisters’ lives, and indeed their own, have been altered by the devastating actions of one man'.

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Peter's debut novel is spoken through the lens of both trans and cis women, and speaks to relationships, family dynamics, motherhood, identity and more.

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

The Sunday Times bestseller's debut novel follows 22-year-old Ava on her gap year and all the tales and tribulations that ensue.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones

'The story of three marriages, and of a beautiful island paradise where, beyond the white sand beaches and the wealthy tourists, lies poverty, menacing violence and the story of the sacrifices some women make to survive,' the Women's Prize for Fiction bio reads.

Luster by Raven Leilani

Bronx-born writer Raven Leilani brings to life Edie, who is unfulfilled in a dead-end job in an all-white office and soon becomes embroiled with Eric, a white, middle aged married man in a 'sort-of' open relationship.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

'Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has. In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides which thunder up staircases, the clouds which move in slow procession through the upper halls,'

Summer by Ali Smith

‘This is a story about people on the brink of change. They’re family, but they think they’re strangers. So: where does family begin? And what do people who think they’ve got nothing in common have in common?'

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

One of the most hyped reads of the past year, the bestselling story of identical twins who run away from their small, southern Black community aged 16. The book picks up with them 10 years later when they live vastly different lives; one in the same community she tried to escape and one who secretly passes as white with her white husband knowing nothing of their past.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Written by Ghanian born, Alabama raised Yaa Gyasi, the book centers around a family who travelled the same route. But when the main character loses her brother and father, she seeks answers for why life was so cruel for them as immigrants in the American south.

Bloomberg Businessweek magazine recommends adding these titles to your reading list this spring:

Tomorrow They Won’t Dare to Murder Us by Joseph Andras

In 1956, National Liberation Front member Fernand Iveton planted a bomb near Algiers. The hoped-for explosion was intended only to be a piece of symbolism, and as such, he put it in an unused shed. But its location was academic: He was arrested before it could go off and then mercilessly tortured, brought to trial, and swiftly guillotined. Andras’s fictionalized retelling of Iveton’s saga was published in French in 2016 to immediate acclaim, winning the prestigious Prix Goncourt.

Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II by Daniel Brown

The author of The Boys in the Boat—a bestselling chronicle of rowers competing in the 1936 Olympic Games in Nazi Germany—is back, with the story of Japanese-Americans who, after Pearl Harbor, volunteered for service. While they were fighting for their country (and their lives) in Europe, their families faced xenophobia and internment camps back home.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

The author of now-classic titles such as The Remains of the DayWhen We Were Orphans, and Never Let Me Go is a master at constructing narratives in which the plot is something very different from what the characters believe they understand. In Ishiguro’s hands, gaps in a character’s memory often are the plot. His latest takes those blind spots to their logical conclusion in the form of a robot named Klara, a so-called Artificial Friend designed to be a child’s companion. 

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson

Isaacson’s previous biographies have focused on such men as Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci. Here he tells the story of Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist who won a Nobel Prize for the gene-editing technology known as Crispr. The book is an excellent primer on the complex subject, its benefits (fighting disease), and its ethical hurdles (designer babies).

Letters to Camondo by Edmund de Waal

There are very few commercially successful ceramic artists working today, and even fewer ceramic artists with a side gig as a critically acclaimed author. Best-known for his large-scale installations of exquisitely crafted porcelain and his bestseller The Hare with Amber Eyes, de Waal’s latest piece of fiction combines the two sides of his professional life. This book consists of imaginary letters to the real-life Moïse de Camondo, a fabulously rich Jewish banker who ran one of the most successful institutions in the Ottoman Empire and was also an art patron. His collection, now in the Musée Nissim de Camondo, is one of the jewels of Paris’s museums.

Painting Time by Maylis de Kerangal

As anyone who’s loved a book and hated a movie will tell you, it’s very hard to translate the essence of one artistic medium into another. But de Kerangal manages the trick here, following the career of a painter and rendering her search for mastery of a craft in such a way that it reveals the author in full control of her own. Like her earlier novels—The Heart, which gave an in-depth look at organ donation, and The Cook, which does the same for the restaurant industry—Painting Time doesn’t just use paintings to further a story, or as a pretext for enlivening a bit of history. It’s a novel about the creative process itself.

Antiquities by Cynthia Ozick

Most people have experienced some form of Covid isolation. Ozick, 92, who’s been shortlisted for the Pulitzer and Man Booker International prizes, has created a protagonist who’s similarly afflicted, though it’s old age, rather than a pandemic, that finds him holed up indoors. As he embarks on his memoirs, he is drawn, mothlike, to memories of his cousin, a famous archaeologist, and to a mysterious schoolmate.

Second Place by Rachel Cusk

Beloved and reviled in equal measure, Cusk’s startlingly creative autobiographical fiction—most recently in Outline and Transit—has pivoted back to a form bearing an uncanny resemblance to a traditional novel. Her main character, a woman named M who narrates the plot, invites an artist she admires to stay in her guesthouse. The resulting tensions among the home’s inhabitants are rendered in Cusk’s clear, conversational prose.

The Trojan Women: A Comic by Rosanna Bruno and Anne Carson

The Athenian playwright Euripides wrote a tragedy 2,500 years ago that followed the women of Troy after the city’s fall. Their husbands killed and their families enslaved, they spend quite a bit of time mourning what they had, and dreading what’s to come. Through millennia the play has remained an enduring testament to so-called collateral damage. Now Carson, a classicist who’s translated Sappho and other ancient poets, partners with Bruno, a visual artist, to create a contemporary update of the story.

Entertainment Weekly polled your favorite Young Adult fiction authors, including Jenny Han, Victoria Aveyard, Kendare Blake, and more, about their spring reading:

Love in Color by Bolu Babalola

"Love in Color is Babalola's debut collection showcases love stories from history and mythology retold with new detail and vivacity. With an eye towards decolonizing tropes inherent in our favorite tales of love, Babalola has created captivating stories that traverse across perspectives, continents, and genres." -Jenny Han

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

"I'm a sucker for world-building, not to mention bloody twists, and Roseanne Brown's A Song of Wraiths and Ruin has both in spades. I felt absolutely swallowed up by this world and story in the best way. I might be late to the party, but at least I don't have to wait long for the sequel, A Psalm of Storms and Silence, which releases this fall." -Victoria Aveyard

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

"In Elise Bryant's Happily Ever Afters, Tessa Johnson writes romance novels, oftentimes starring herself. Tessa is the most relatable character I've ever read, from her love of romance to her experiences with racism to her performance anxiety and imposter syndrome. Tessa is me." -Joya Goffney

When We Were Infinite by Kelly Loy Gilbert

"In When We Were Infinite, Beth witnesses her friend's father assaulting him. Beth leads her close-knit friend group in a desperate effort to save him, but he steadfastly refuses their help. Kelly Loy Gilbert has a way of holding up her characters like jewels to the light so that you can see their flaws and their exquisite beauty, and this book is no exception." – Misa Sgiura

Love in English by Maria E. Andreu

"As a non-native English speaker, I knew Love in English would resonate with me from the moment I heard about it. It tells the story of Ana, an Argentinian immigrant who has to learn English, explore a new culture, and navigate typical high school drama all at the same time. There are budding friendships, swoon-worthy boys, and mouthwatering Argentinian specialties. Maria E. Andreu also peppered the novel with lovely poems that cleverly portray life in a language not yet mastered." – Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

"I cannot get over how much I loved Crystal Maldonado's Fat Chance, Charlie Vega! I'm a sucker for a good love story, and not only does this have a literal love interest, but it's a love story by Charlie to her body that I couldn't get enough of. The way Charlie comes into her own and claims her space made my heart soar!" – Jason June

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi

"My pick is Yolk, by Mary H. K. Choi, whose contemporary novels are not only beautifully written, but rife always with emotion and honesty. " -Tahereh Mafi