This eclectic collection of fiction and non-fiction titles have been read and discussed by members of the Arroyo Book Club. Once a month they meet at the Arroyo Seco Branch Library, and faithfully submit an annotation about the most recently read book.
What was America like before Columbus? In this book Mann explores that question surveying the current state of archeology to paint a picture different from the one you read in your school history book. A slow but rewarding read.
Explore a grim, dystopian future with a government so in control of its people that it seeks to dictate how they think. Written 70 years ago about an imagined 1984, the novel still provides warnings about social control and engineering techniques we have not yet avoided.
Beautifully written, this story of a young blind French girl and a young German soldier, whose lives collide in France toward the end of the Nazi occupation. Watch their lives intersect in surprising ways as their fortunes are shaped by the people and world around them.
The graphic novel credited with revolutionizing not only Batman, but all superhero comics. Miller takes a look at a Batman of the future, an old man who finds his world has passed him by, but fights on regardless. A biting, violent, disjointed take on Batman which demonstrates how a graphic novel can be as entertaining as any straight-up novel. Not a story for everyone, but an important work of comic history.
This seductively wordy novel touches on the tragedy of both WWII and the Vietnam War, while bringing to life a wonderful set of characters.
This novel about an African immigrant and small business owner explores issues like gentrification, escaping the weight of the past, otherness in community, new and old relationships and more, all in clear, pellucid language.
Winner of the 2012 National Book Award for nonfiction, Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a deftly written, creatively composed, and painstakingly researched work of narrative nonfiction that provides insight into the lives of a group of residents of Annawadi, a large, fast-growing Mumbai slum. Boo’s deference to and respect for her subjects and their stories is evident and ensures that the narrative, while often heartbreaking, is never mawkish or patronizing.
This book provides a look at the way aging and death is handled in our society, with the goal of ferreting out the practices that keep people happier and make dying more in line with what the dying person wants.
Isaacson gives us an in depth look at the many achievements of one of America’s founding fathers. This fascinating portrait reveals Franklin to be quintessentially American, a well-rounded and civically engaged man who was always pragmatic.
Coates examines race and racism in America, both past and present, through the lens of his own full-life experience, in this open letter to his son.
Young Anthony Márez tells the tale of his boyhood, his friends, his religious stirrings, the events of his small community, and the wisdom of Ultima, a curandera who became his teacher, in this lyrical novel.
Explore human nature in the face of adversity, in this disturbing, dystopian analysis of a society laid to waste by an epidemic.
Details the experiences of Oscar and his family and friends in New Jersey and the Dominican Republic, exposing you to a rich mix of the cultures in both locations.
Explore the collective lives of a group of Japanese “picture brides” brought to the US in the early part of the 20th century. Otsuka gives us a compelling yet wrenching tale of the immigrant experience in this novel.
Though both of Yaas' Iranian parents are Jewish, her father's upper class family is contemptuous of her mother, who comes from an impoverished community of South Tehran. But the real challenge to her parents' marriage is her father's love for his beautiful Muslim mistress. Hoping to spare her daughter the misery she endures, Yaas' mother expects her daughter to excel academically, but something prevents Yaas from grasping the basics of learning.
A personal work that uses a lyrical voice to describe the visceral impact of daily acts of racism. This is a difficult book, both thematically and stylistically, so be prepared to think.
Pregnant and abandoned in Chile by her lover who is lured by the California gold rush, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Sommers heads to San Francisco herself. Disguised as a boy, she spends four years searching for the man she thought she loved, all the while being guided and cared for by Tao Chi-en, a Chinese healer.This is a sweeping historical novel that follows the adventures of its heroine from her childhood in Chile to the gold fields of California as she searches for her first love.
The essays in this book explore concepts from astronomy and astrophysics in an entertaining and informative style which make the subjects understandable for everyone. Pick it up to recapture some of the childhood awe you experienced when seeing the night sky, or at least to learn the science behind the awe.
A spare narrative that spans the life of the missionary bishop to the territory of New Mexico. It provides snapshot moments of a deeply contemplative life while inducing a yearning to explore the geography and see the sights of the southwest desert.
This grim book explores the lives of a man and his daughter and the myriad meanings of disgrace in South Africa. It is a challenging book that lovers of literature will find rewarding.
The emperor of all maladies is cancer. This book presents a biography of the disease, exploring it and our relationship to it from the days when it was first described up into the near future. In this excellent book you will learn all about our persistent fight against cancer, our wins and our losses.
Can an ordinary citizen successfully fight against a repressive regime? In this grim but rewarding book we follow a pair of such citizens in WWII Germany.
This slender debut novel is deceptively quiet and elegantly restrained on the surface, but packs a knock-out punch. The story of how and why teenager Lydia Lee, the beautiful, brilliant, best-loved child of a 1970's mixed-race Ohio family, meets her shocking death is much more than just a Midwestern mystery. Within her very specific rendering of one family's tragedy, author Celeste Ng illuminates America's poisonous history of racism, sexism, and homophobia, but never at the expense of a suspenseful plot and a compellingly original cast of characters.
Desmond presents a detailed and well written ethnography of some people facing eviction in Milwaukee. It provides a heartbreakingly detailed and very specific look at poverty in America.
Firoozeh Dumas uses humor to leaven this memoir of her family’s immigrant experience in America.
Leovoy outlines a “ghettoside” killing (slaying of a young black man by another) in South Los Angeles, and the dedicated detective who pursues the assailant. This book follows the case and uses it to explore larger sociological questions about crime and policing.
Perhaps the most famous of the current crop of Scandinavian psychological thrillers, this is the first of three novels pairing misunderstood genius Lisbeth Salander and determined journalist Mikael Blomkvist as they encounter violence and corruption to get to the bottom of a long-ago disappearance.
In 1962, three Mississippi women—two black maids and a young white woman from a privileged family with dreams of becoming a writer—fight back against the established racism of the South by publishing a tell-all book about the lives of black maids in their town. A firestorm erupts.
If you are looking for a book with a complex, detail rich plot; with characters that show all the worst sides of humanity as well as characters who show moments of the goodness humanity can be capable of; and that still has room to share a larger lesson, then look no further than this engrossing tale.
Capote explores a horrific crime in graphic detail in this book that follows the victims, the perpetrators, the investigators, and the community involved.
This book tells the tale of two women of the 19th century, Handful born a slave and Sarah born to a slave-owning family. The story follows their trials and tribulations across the early 1800s as Sarah grows into both an abolitionist and a feminist and Handful, horribly constrained by her circumstances, eventually makes the perilous quest for freedom.Handful and Sarah are two young women living in the same household, both desiring to find a place in the world. But these independent spirits have quite different obstacles: they are women in 19th-century South Carolina, and Handful is Sarah's slave.
Intrigue. Betrayal. Politics. Honor. Death. Find it all in this stirring tale of the last days of Julius Caesar as dramatized by William Shakespeare.
Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, recounts one of his first cases, Walter McMillian, a young man sentenced to die for a murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The author straightforwardly tells of his experience as a lawyer defending, among others, those on death row, those too harshly punished for crimes committed when they were children, and those victimized by a system that rewards wealth in this book making the case, in the process, for a reformation of our country’s way of dealing justice.
Geobiologist Jahren has created a memoir of a life in “big science” that started with a life as the daughter of a community college science professor in Minnesota. She worked her way up through academia in a world that is not often welcoming to women, but persevered and got her own lab. Her life story is woven between stories about the lives of trees, the plants that are Jahren’s specialty and her passion.
Ursula Todd has a habit of dying. She dies when she's born, in childhood accidents, in war, and yet, Ursula Todd seems to have an infinite number of lives, chances to correct her own missteps, and to intervene in the lives of others. As she follows many paths through the first half of the 20th century - as an English schoolgirl, an Air Raid Precautions worker during the Blitz, an expat in Munich, a miserable wife, and a mistress, among other things - the question presses: if Ursula can change the course of her own life, can she change history? Page-turning and wildly inventive, Life After Life is truly a book to get lost in. Atkinson explores the impact of circumstance on fortune and character by examining a reiterated life, an approach that leads to some deep philosophical, or maybe quantum mechanical, musing.
Pi Patel, the teenage son of a zookeeper, emigrates with his family from India to America aboard a cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. The ship sinks and Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat with a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Pi’s fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with the tiger for 227 days lost at sea.
This richly detailed historical novel explores British naval life in the Napoleonic Era. The first of a 20-volume series, this book introduces the principal characters and paints a fascinating picture.
Wu lays out the history of the development of the radio, movie, and telephone industries to identify a cycle found in communications businesses before analyzing how (and if) these cycles will impact the Internet. A fascinating, timely read.
Lou, a small-town British girl desperate to find a job, accepts a position assisting a wheelchair-bound young man. Will was recently paralyzed following an accident and he is angry and moody, but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves. Soon, she finds herself developing strong feelings for him, yet it turns out that Will has shocking plans of his own. Take out a tissue.
Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice asks you to choose between justice and mercy. Read it and decide which camp you fall in.
Try the classic tale of obsession and all things whale. It is both interesting and informative and, of course, a requirement if you wish to seem well-read.
In this engaging memoir, explore one woman’s life and learn how she overcame barriers of poverty, race, and illness to achieve great success.
In this book Jill Bolte Taylor tells us the tale of the stroke she suffered when she was thirty-seven-years old, and what she learned from the stroke and the recovery process. The author presents an interesting reflection on our relation to and with our brains.
Born in Boston soon after his parents arrive from Calcutta, Gogul Ganguli grows up embracing American ways that are an affront to his family’s Bengali heritage. He even legally changes his given name, which his father had chosen to honor a Russian writer he credits with saving his life.The book is beautifully descriptive, capturing 30 years in brief, relevant snippets.
This excellent series of what are essentially short stories, from a number of viewpoints, combine to give us a picture of a very human woman.
A WWII nurse unexpectedly finds herself in Scotland at the time of the Jacobite uprising. Trapped in the past she has one adventure after another and falls in love. Perfect for fans of historical fiction who like action and can get behind a bit of a romance
Explore questions of justice, violence, and the mob in this dissection of a lynching set in 19th century Nevada.
Winchester brings us a tale of the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary that includes both learned men and mad men, and gives us an interesting take on what was (and remains today) an enormous undertaking.
This book, which became a movie, began as a series of newspaper articles about a Juilliard-trained, mentally ill homeless man in downtown Los Angeles. It touches on many issues prevalent in modern society from mental illness to homelessness to the power of music, and friendship to the (potential) fate of newspapers in our Internet world.
A man investigates the death of an acquaintance, and in the process explores the experiences of a generation of Colombians impacted by Escobar and the drug trade.
Here you will find the life story of a man who was born in Burundi, survived the genocide that occurred there, came to America where he went from homelessness in NYC to medical school, and eventually returned to Burundi to work on building health clinics. It is a book full of despair that still manages to leave you with some hope at the end.
Greenblatt tells the tale of the rediscovery in the 1400s of Lucretius’ epic On the Nature of Things and makes the argument that Lucretius’ text made an impact on the direction of modern thought. An ambitious book that has a lot of good things to say about libraries.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” We read Dickens' classic tale of a family and their friends caught up in the mill of vast societal changes.
Officially, the screenplay for Lincoln is adapted from this very popular work. While it does not deal very much with the battle to adopt the 13th Amendment, you can learn about how Lincoln dealt with his contentious Cabinet. Lincoln needed a strong group to help him through the crisis that awaited him.
A recently released prisoner winds up on an ill-fated revenge quest in this stream of consciousness novel by Egyptian Nobel Winner Mahfouz.
This book is the prototype of the western genre. It paints a picture of Wyoming in the age of the cattle rancher and establishes a particularly American mythos.
Shattered at age 26 by her mother's death and the end of her marriage, Strayed did something way out of the realm of her experience--she took a solo 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.
Kingston uses folk tales, myth and the dimly remembered events of her life to tell a story of girlhood, and to reflect on what being a girl means in Chinese culture and, obliquely, in American culture.
A biographical novel that explores the life of that ‘20s it couple, the Fitzgeralds. Told from Zelda’s point of view, you’re left with a vivid picture of the damage that was done by the attitudes and beliefs from that time period.