Sunday, December 8, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 12 Random Recommendations for 2014 Book Club

Jen and Kellee host this meme- be sure to stop by and comment on their wonderful blog:

I belong to a book club. I'm going on year three with a funny and intelligent group of women. We are "educator-ish" - we all work in a school in some capacity, and a few are retired teachers. One is retired AND just went back to subbing at her school! I hate to miss book club and have only missed one time when too many meetings got in my way. We take turns hosting and our treats and cocktails often follow the theme of the book. On Veteran's Day, we go out to lunch since we usually all have that day off. Each December, we meet for book club AND bring a list of suggestions for the next year's reads. We used to pick about four months at a time, but last year we mapped out the whole year- there were that many good books. Tomorrow night is our selection meeting and I can't wait. Here are my nominations for this year! It's an eclectic list, but if you met us you would say we're an eclectic group!
(All of the book summaries are from Goodreads.)

Drumroll please!

Recommended by Lisa Highfill

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake
by Jenny Wingfield (Goodreads Author)
Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at “the old home place,” a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. The children embrace the reunion as a welcome escape from the prying eyes of their father’s congregation; for Willadee it’s a precious opportunity to spend time with her mother and father, Calla and John. But just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core: John’s untimely death and, soon after, the loss of Samuel’s parish, which set the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change.
In the midst of it all, Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But it is Blade Ballenger, a traumatized eight-year-old neighbor, who soon captures Swan’s undivided attention. Full of righteous anger, and innocent of the peril facing her and those she loves, Swan makes it her mission to keep the boy safe from his terrifying father.
With characters who spring to life as vividly as if they were members of one’s own family, and with the clear-eyed wisdom that illuminates the most tragic—and triumphant—aspects of human nature, Jenny Wingfield emerges as one of the most vital, engaging storytellers writing today. InThe Homecoming of Samuel Lake she has created a memorable and lasting work of fiction.

Recommended by Regina Rosenzweig

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

by Sheryl Sandberg

Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.

Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked onFortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one ofTime’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TEDTalk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been viewed more than two million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.

In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.” She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home. 

I heard Bill speak at the Sacramento Bee Book Club!

One Summer: America, 1927

by Bill Bryson

In One Summer Bill Bryson, one of our greatest and most beloved nonfiction writers, transports readers on a journey back to one amazing season in American life.

The summer of 1927 began with one of the signature events of the twentieth century: on May 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross the Atlantic by plane nonstop, and when he landed in Le Bourget airfield near Paris, he ignited an explosion of worldwide rapture and instantly became the most famous person on the planet. Meanwhile, the titanically talented Babe Ruth was beginning his assault on the home run record, which would culminate on September 30 with his sixtieth blast, one of the most resonant and durable records in sports history. In between those dates a Queens housewife named Ruth Snyder and her corset-salesman lover garroted her husband, leading to a murder trial that became a huge tabloid sensation. Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly sat atop a flagpole in Newark, New Jersey, for twelve days—a new record. The American South was clobbered by unprecedented rain and by flooding of the Mississippi basin, a great human disaster, the relief efforts for which were guided by the uncannily able and insufferably pompous Herbert Hoover. Calvin Coolidge interrupted an already leisurely presidency for an even more relaxing three-month vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The gangster Al Capone tightened his grip on the illegal booze business through a gaudy and murderous reign of terror and municipal corruption. The first true “talking picture,” Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, was filmed and forever changed the motion picture industry. The four most powerful central bankers on earth met in secret session on a Long Island estate and made a fateful decision that virtually guaranteed a future crash and depression.

All this and much, much more transpired in that epochal summer of 1927, and Bill Bryson captures its outsized personalities, exciting events, and occasional just plain weirdness with his trademark vividness, eye for telling detail, and delicious humor. In that year America stepped out onto the world stage as the main event, and One Summer transforms it all into narrative

Just because!

The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak (Goodreads Author)

The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that will be in movie theaters on November 15, 2013, Markus Zusak's unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

Recommended by #ABCT -- Adult Book Club on Twitter

We Are Water

by Wally Lamb

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Hour I First Believed and I Know This Much Is True, a disquieting and ultimately uplifting novel about a marriage, a family, and human resilience in the face of tragedy

In middle age, Anna Oh-wife, mother, outsider artist-has shaken her family to its core. After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Anna has fallen in love with Vivica, the wealthy, cultured, confident Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her professional success.

Anna and Viveca plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut, where gay marriage has recently been legalized. But the impending wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora's Box of toxic secrets-dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs' lives.

We Are Water is an intricate and layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs-nonconformist Annie; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest Oh. Set in New England and New York during the first years of the Obama presidency, it is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art.

With humor and breathtaking compassion, Wally Lamb brilliantly captures the essence of human experience in vivid and unforgettable characters struggling to find hope and redemption in the aftermath of trauma and loss. We Are Water is vintage Wally Lamb-a compulsively readable, generous, and uplifting masterpiece that digs deep into the complexities of the human heart to explore the ways in which we search for love and meaning in our lives.

Flight Behavior

by Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behavior transfixes from its opening scene, when a young woman's narrow experience of life is thrown wide with the force of a raging fire. In the lyrical language of her native Appalachia, Barbara Kingsolver bares the rich, tarnished humanity of her novel's inhabitants and unearths the modern complexities of rural existence. Characters and reader alike are quickly carried beyond familiar territory here, into the unsettled ground of science, faith, and everyday truces between reason and conviction.

Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen. Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man. As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media. The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.

Flight Behavior takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time: climate change. With a deft and versatile empathy Kingsolver dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world.

Graphic novel? Donner Party? Why not?
Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #3)

by Nathan Hale (Goodreads Author)

The Donner Party expedition is one of the most notorious stories in all of American history. It’s also a fascinating snapshot of the westward expansion of the United States, and the families and individuals who sacrificed so much to build new lives in a largely unknown landscape. From the preparation for the journey to each disastrous leg of the trip, this book shows the specific bad decisions that led to the party’s predicament in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The graphic novel focuses on the struggles of the Reed family to tell the true story of the catastrophic journey.

This popular topic is a perfect addition to the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales brand, and a great showcase for Hale’s storytelling skills.

Pictures of the Past

by Deby Eisenberg (Goodreads Author)

Pictures of the Past is a compelling saga sweeping through Chicago, Paris and Berlin, reliving events from pre-World War II Europe, but beginning in contemporary times. An Impressionist painting, hanging for decades in the Art Institute of Chicago and donated by the charismatic philanthropist Taylor Woodmere, is challenged by an elderly woman as a Nazi theft. Taylor's gripping and passionate story takes us back to 1937. Sent to Paris on family business, he reluctantly leaves his girlfriend Emily, a spoiled debutante from Newport, Rhode Island. But once in Europe, he immediately falls in love - first with an Henri Lebasque painting, and then with the enchanting Sarah Berger of Berlin. After Taylor returns home, the Berger family becomes trapped in the Nazi web, and any attempts for the new lovers to be reunited are thwarted. Interwoven with this narrative is the story of Rachel Gold, a beautiful and bright Chicago girl caught up in the times of the late 1960's. Pregnant and abandoned by her boyfriend Court Woodmere, Taylor's son, she moves to New York to live with her aunt, a Holocaust survivor. Years later, as the controversy surrounding the provenance of the painting becomes public, Rachel's grown son is disturbed by his inexplicable familiarity with the work of art. And it is only Taylor Woodmere who can unravel the complicated puzzle of their lives. With a heart-grabbing ending, Pictures of the Past is historical fiction at its best, giving a personalized window to the powerful events and intriguing venues of the eras. From a world torn by the horrors of war, a love story emerges that endures through years of separation.

I've read this but would love to discuss! Recommended by Donalyn Miller

Out of My Mind

by Sharon M. Draper (Goodreads Author)

Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there's no delete button. She's the smartest kid in her whole school; but no one knows it. Most people; her teachers and doctors included, don't think she's capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can't, because Melody can't talk. She can't walk. She can't write. Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind, that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it. From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon M. Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Get ready to meet a girl whose voice you'll never, ever forget.

It's been in my TBR pile all year!
Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon

by Steve Sheinkin

In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world's most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.

Bomb is a 2012 National Book Awards finalist for Young People’s Literature.

Bomb is a 2012 Washington Post Best Kids Books of the Year title.

Bomb is a 2013 Newbery Honor book.
Selfish recommendation
On Writing

by Stephen King (Goodreads Author)

"Long live the King" hailed "Entertainment Weekly" upon the publication of Stephen King's "On Writing." Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 -- and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, "On Writing" will empower and entertain everyone who reads it -- fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
Recommended by Will Kimbley

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

by Kate DiCamillo, Bagram Ibatoulline (Illustrator)

A timeless tale by the incomparable Kate DiCamillo, complete with stunning full-color plates by Bagram Ibatoulline, honors the enduring power of love.

"Someone will come for you, but first you must open your heart. . . ."

Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who treated him with the utmost care and adored him completely.

And then, one day, he was lost.

Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the top of a garbage heap to the fireside of a hoboes' camp, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. And along the way, we are shown a true miracle — that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.(less)

Some other ideas...

Another classic book-- This year we chose one month to be a classic of our choice. We all chose a different book. I chose A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and am just in the beginning of reading it. It's amazing. When searching for a classic, this one was highly recommended. There are definitely some other classics out there, so I love this as one of our monthly themes!

A current Newbery / Honor / Contender-- Personally, I'm trying to read some of the books that are currently being discussed as Newbery contenders. I'd love to have someone to talk about them with.

Gap challenge--Was it Donalyn Miller who suggested reading a book from our "gap", those books we tend to stay away from? Sci-Fi and Dystopia are my gaps, so this year I'm hoping to try a few from the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. (Thanks, Joe Wood!)

What are you hoping to read this year?


  1. Sooooo many good books here. You'll have to let me know what you choose!

  2. The Book Thief is it. And On Writing is one of my all time farovites, especially after Teachers Write. I hope you find some gems in your picks!

  3. What a list!

    I'm looking forward to seeing the Book Thief when it hits the theater. (Often I do not look forward to movie adaptations, but I'm eagerly anticipating this one.)