Brown Bag Books

This Library book discussion group meets at noon on the fourth Wednesday of each month and is always open to new members. Books are available at the Readers’ Advisory desk during the month preceding the discussion. Volunteers from among the group lead the discussion, with background materials supplied by the librarian.

 

Upcoming Selections:

November 23rd
This Tender Land
by William Kent Krueger

This Tender Land book cover

The unforgettable story of four orphans who travel the Mississippi River on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression.
In the summer of 1932, on the banks of Minnesota’s Gilead River, Odie O’Banion is an orphan confined to the Lincoln Indian Training School, a pitiless place where his lively nature earns him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee after committing a terrible crime, he and his brother, Albert, their best friend, Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.  Over the course of one summer, these four orphans journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an enthralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.

December 28th
Midnight at the Blackbird Café
by Heather Webber

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe book cover

Heather Webber’s Midnight at the Blackbird Café is a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town Southern charm. Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café.  It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.  As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

January 25th
Project Hail Mary
by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary book cover

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.  Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.  All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.  His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.  And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.  Or does he?  An irresistible interstellar adventure as only Andy Weir could deliver, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian—while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.  “If you loved The Martian, you’ll go crazy for Weir’s latest.”—The Washington Post

February 22nd
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
by Isabel Wilkerson

Caste book coverIn this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.  Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their outcasting of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.  Beautifully written, original, and revealing, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of American life today.

Previous Books Discussed:

2022
Girl Waits with Gun 
by Amy Stewart
Black Bottom Saints by Alice Randall
Made in China by Amelia Pang
The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

2021
Factfulness by Hans Rosling
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
The Overstory by Richard Powers
The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg

2020
Less 
by Andrew Sean Greer
What the Eyes Don’t See by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
[no meeting – March 2020]
The Sport of Kings
by C. E. Morgan
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Virgil Wander by Lief Enger
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
Creatures by Crissy Van Meter
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

2019
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani
Improvement by Joan Silber
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
The Power by Naomi Alderman
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen
The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

2018
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
by Roz Chast
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

2017
Desert Queen
by Janet Wallach
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Once in a Great City by David Maraniss
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Ngyuen
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

2016
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Euphoria by Lily King
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
Dead Wake by Erik Larson
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

2015
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

2014
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
by Jonas Jonasson
The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian
Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

2013
The Language of Flowers
by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Tiger’s Wife by Tèa Obreht
Remains of the Day by Kazou Ishiguro
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

2012
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Tinkers by Paul Harding
The Art Student’s War by Brad Leithauser
Please Look After Mom by Kyong-Sook Shin
Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Submission by Amy Waldman
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

2011
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
Annie’s Ghosts by Steven Luxenberg
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Arc of Justice: a saga of race, civil rights, and murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

2010
Stealing Buddha’s Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen
Birds Without Wings by Louis de Berniers
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Kings of New York by Michael Weinreb
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
The Girls From Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
My Ántonia by Willa Cather

2009
Little Heathens
by Mildred A. Kalish
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch & Jeffrye Zaslow
Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russel
Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Home by Marilyne Robinson

2008
His Excellency: George Washington
by Joseph J. Ellis
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaleid Hosseini
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Go and Come Back by Joan Abelove

2007
Saturday
by Ian McEwan
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
Julie and Julia by Julia Powell
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
Arc of Justice: a saga of race, civil rights, and murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
March by Geraldine Brooks
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

2006
The Bone People
by Keri Hulme
True North by Jim Harrison
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan

2005
Benjamin Franklin
by Walter Isaacson
The Three Miss Margarets by Louise Shaffer
Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCraken
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Madam Secretary by Madeleine Albright
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

2004
April 1865: the month that saved America
by Jay Winik
The Runaway Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini
Black Dahlia Avenger by Steve Hodel
Saul and Patsy by Charles Baxter
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
The Giver, Gathering Blue, & The Messenger by Lois Lowry
Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor of Jordan
Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks
True to Form by Elizabeth Berg

2003
John Adams by David McCullough
The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Angle of Repose by Wallace Earle Stegner
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Lucky Gourd Shop by Joanna Catherine Scott
A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson
West of Kabul, East of New York by Tamim Ansary
Observatory Mansions by Edward Carey
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

2002
A Virtuous Woman
by Kaye Gibbons
Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz
Seabiscuit: an American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund
The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

2001
The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon
by Stephen King
The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve
The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Nine and Counting: The Women of the Senate by Barbara Mikulski, et al.
Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Beach Music by Pat Conroy
Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
A Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon
Personal History by Katharine Graham
Sometimes I Dream in Italian by Rita Ciresi

2000
The Shipping News
by Annie Proulx
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Follow the River by James Alexander Thom
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Evensong by Gail Godwin
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

1999
Charming Billy
by Alice McDermott
Father Melancholy’s Daughter by Gail Godwin
We Were the Mulhaneys by Joyce Carol Oates
I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow
Patty Jane’s House of Curl by Lorna Landrik
The Testament by John Grisham
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy