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:

June 22nd
Hamnet
by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet Book CoverOf all the stories that argue and speculate about Shakespeare’s life … here is a novel … so gorgeously written that it transports you.” —The Boston Globe

England, 1580: The Black Death creeps across the land, an ever-present threat, infecting the healthy, the sick, the old and the young alike. The end of days is near, but life always goes on. A young Latin tutor—penniless and bullied by a violent father—falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman. Agnes is a wild creature who walks her family’s land with a falcon on her glove and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer, understanding plants and potions better than she does people. Once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon, she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose career on the London stage is just taking off when his beloved young son succumbs to sudden fever.

 

July 27th
The Stars Are Fire
by Anita Shreve

The Stars Are Fire Book Cover

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Weight of Water and The Pilot’s Wife (an Oprah’s Book Club selection): an exquisitely suspenseful new novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event and its devastating aftermath–based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine’s history

In October 1947, after a summer long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. The women spend the night frantically protecting their children, and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands’ fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms–joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain–and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens–and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.

 

August 24th
The Night Watchman
by Louise Erdrich

The Night Watchman Book Cover

WINNER OF THE 2021 PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION

WASHINGTON POST, AMAZON, NPR, CBS SUNDAY MORNING, KIRKUS, CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY, AND GOOD HOUSEKEEPING BEST BOOK OF 2020

Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman.

Thomas Wazhashk is the night watchman at the jewel bearing plant, the first factory located near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. He is also a Chippewa Council member who is trying to understand the consequences of a new “emancipation” bill on its way to the floor of the United States Congress. It is 1953 and he and the other council members know the bill isn’t about freedom; Congress is fed up with Indians. The bill is a “termination” that threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land and their very identity. How can the government abandon treaties made in good faith with Native Americans “for as long as the grasses shall grow, and the rivers run”?

Since graduating high school, Pixie Paranteau has insisted that everyone call her Patrice. Unlike most of the girls on the reservation, Patrice, the class valedictorian, has no desire to wear herself down with a husband and kids. She makes jewel bearings at the plant, a job that barely pays her enough to support her mother and brother. Patrice’s shameful alcoholic father returns home sporadically to terrorize his wife and children and bully her for money. But Patrice needs every penny to follow her beloved older sister, Vera, who moved to the big city of Minneapolis. Vera may have disappeared; she hasn’t been in touch in months, and is rumored to have had a baby. Determined to find Vera and her child, Patrice makes a fateful trip to Minnesota that introduces her to unexpected forms of exploitation and violence, and endangers her life.

Thomas and Patrice live in this impoverished reservation community along with young Chippewa boxer Wood Mountain and his mother Juggie Blue, her niece and Patrice’s best friend Valentine, and Stack Barnes, the white high school math teacher and boxing coach who is hopelessly in love with Patrice.

In The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich creates a fictional world populated with memorable characters who are forced to grapple with the worst and best impulses of human nature. Illuminating the loves and lives, the desires and ambitions of these characters with compassion, wit, and intelligence, The Night Watchman is a majestic work of fiction from this revered cultural treasure.

 

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

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]
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