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ABC (Arroyo Book Club) Picks - Updated 06-24-19

Updated: June 24, 2019

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.

Mann, Charles C.
Call Number: 970.1 M281

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.

Orwell, George, 1903-1950,
Call Number: Ed.m

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.

Herriot, James.
Call Number: 619.092 H567
These memoirs of a country vet are heartwarming, amusing, and ultimately speak of fitting perfectly in your life’s space.

Doerr, Anthony, 1973-

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.

Chabon, Michael.
This book manages to explore the world of comic books, Jewish flight from World War II-era Europe, and the magic of escapism (think Houdini), among other things.

Gaiman, Neil.
This fantasy book explores the evolution of mythical archetypes as they are brought to America and transformed by the land and people that they find here. (Oh yeah, there is also a battle of the old vs. the new and much, much more.)

Kingsolver, Barbara.
Call Number: 641.09754 K55
Kingsolver and her family take a year to live solely on food they grow themselves or find locally produced. This book follows their experience and speaks strongly to the slow food and locavore philosophies.

Stein, Garth.
See the trials and tribulations of a family through the eyes of their wise, in his own way, dog.  It is a tale filled with wry, surprisingly true observations.

Vowell, Sarah, 1969-
Call Number: 973 V974
This is a travel book with a difference. The author explores sites linked to the assassinations of U.S. presidents, in the process providing you with a ton of information about those events.

Bloom, Amy, 1953-
This novel follows Lillian, an immigrant who comes to New York from Russia in the 1920s, but when she learns that her daughter is still alive, she travels overland to Alaska to find a ship, and hopefully, her daughter.

Miller, Frank, 1957-
Call Number: 740.914 M647-2 1996

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.

Conroy, Pat.

This seductively wordy novel touches on the tragedy of both WWII and the Vietnam War, while bringing to life a wonderful set of characters.

Mengestu, Dinaw, 1978-

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.  

Boo, Katherine.
Call Number: 362.50954 B724

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.

Gawande, Atul,
Call Number: 610.696 G284

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, Walter.
Call Number: 92 F831Is

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, Ta-Nehisi,
Call Number: LT 301.45096 C652

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.

Anaya, Rudolfo A.
Call Number: Ed.f

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.

Saramago, Jose.

 Explore human nature in the face of adversity, in this disturbing, dystopian analysis of a society laid to waste by an epidemic.

Gregory, Philippa.
This historical novel takes you into the court of King Henry VIII through the viewpoints of Anne of Cleves, Katharine Howard, and Jane Boleyn.

Zusak, Markus.
The story of a girl in World War II as she is separated from her family, helps her foster family shield a Jew from the Nazis, and becomes a book thief.

Di?az, Junot, 1968-

Dominican Republic

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.


Otsuka, Julie, 1962-

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.

Nahai, Gina Barkhordar.

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.

Saks, Elyn R., 1955-
Call Number: 616.898 S158
In this book Elyn Saks recounts her journey from student to law professor.  A journey that took place while she struggled with the effects of schizophrenia.  This is a book that helps the reader empathize with those suffering from one form of mental illness, dispelling some myths in the process.

Rankine, Claudia
Call Number: 811 R2115-3

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.

Mitchell, David (David Stephen).
This is an ambitious novel that tells a dark tale of human nature spanning thousands of years and leaves the reader looking for small ways to make sure they try to either change or rise above that nature.

Toole, John Kennedy, 1937-1969.
This comic novel follows the adventures of the lazy Ignatius and his very put-upon mother as they stumble around the city of New Orleans.

Haddon, Mark.
A dog is murdered and someone has to find out what happened. Christopher, who is autistic, undertakes this task and in the process learns much more.

Allende, Isabel.

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.


Hedges, Chris.
Call Number: 362.50973 H453
This book mixes text and graphic formats to paint a picture of the downside of unfettered capitalism.  It is a book that will make you angry or at least make you think.

Tyson, Neil deGrasse.
Call Number: 523 T994

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.

Cather, Willa, 1873-1947.
Call Number: Ed.c

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.

Kean, Sam.
Call Number: 546 K24
This book is filled with anecdotes about each and every element of the periodic table. It brings life and excitement to the world of chemistry - even for those whose knowledge of chemistry is slight.

Coetzee, J. M., 1940-

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.

Mukherjee, Siddhartha.
Call Number: 616.99409 M953

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.

Fallada, Hans, 1893-1947.

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.

Ng, Celeste.

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, Matthew,
Call Number: 331.883 D464

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.

Fforde, Jasper.
An adventure which alters the fate of the book Jane Eyre takes place in two worlds, one real and one (in some sense) meta.

Bradbury, Ray, 1920-2012,
Call Number: SF Ed.k
Bradbury’s classic tale of a dystopian society that has forgone reading to the point that a fireman’s job is to start fires (of books, and any buildings where books are found) still has much to say more than 60 years after it was published.

Ferraris, Zoe?.
The Saudi Arabian setting is what makes this mystery about the disappearance of a teenager stand out. Immerse yourself in the experience of day-to-day life in that country while enjoying a decently depicted mystery.

Dolnick, Edward, 1952-
Call Number: 759 D665
This book follows a forgery plot undertaken during World War II. Along the way, you will learn about Vermeer, the Nazi looting of Europe, the forger Han van Meegeren, and a host of other topics.

Levitt, Steven D.
Call Number: 330.1915 L666
This book provides a light, breezy look at the impact an economic analysis can have on topics that have nothing, at first glance, to do with economics.

Dumas, Firoozeh.
Call Number: 92 D8857 2006

Firoozeh Dumas uses humor to leaven this memoir of her family’s immigrant experience in America. 

Sobel, Dava.
Call Number: 520.92 G158So 2000
This is a fascinating biography of Galileo's daughter, Suor Maria Celeste that exposes you to both the life of a 17th century nun and the father of modern science.

Leovy, Jill.
Call Number: 364.973 L588

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.


Johnson, Steven, 1968-
Call Number: 614.514 J69
When an outbreak of cholera swept through a London neighborhood in 1854, it was widely believed that disease spread through foul odors and "miasmas." Dr. John Snow used a radical new approach to trace the outbreak to its source, saving countless lives and ushering in a new era of urban planning and public health policies.

Larsson, Stieg, 1954-2004.

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.

Kiernan, Denise.
Call Number: 976.82 K47
This book explores the development of the atom bomb through the lens of the working women, from all walks of life, who contributed to its development.

Roy, Arundhati.
This novel is a stylistically challenging Booker Prize Winner that depicts a series of events in a family in India. It is reminiscent of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury.

Diamond, Jared M.
Call Number: 301 D537 2005
This book explores why some societies succeed and some do not.

Stockett, Kathryn.

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.

Preston, Richard, 1954-
Call Number: 614.57 P939 1995
This book explores the discovery and spread of the Ebola and Marburg viruses while highlighting an incident that occurred in Virginia. It leaves you maybe too informed about the dangers of these diseases breaking out of their isolated environments.

Allende, Isabel.
Call Number: Ed.d

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.

Markham, Beryl.
Call Number: 92 M3448-1
In this memoir Markham regales you with vignettes from her life. These engaging tales range from her girlhood in colonial Africa to her experiences as a horse trainer and aviatrix.

Skloot, Rebecca, 1972-
Call Number: 610.71 S628
Explore issues of bioethics, racism, poverty, science, and faith in this investigation into the origins of a line of cells that has and continues to be instrumental to biological and medical research.

Capote, Truman, 1924-1984.
Call Number: 364.92 H629Ca 2013

Capote explores a horrific crime in graphic detail in this book that follows the victims, the perpetrators, the investigators, and the community involved.  

Pollan, Michael.
Call Number: 641 P771-1
This exploration of modern food production provides you with a picture of all that is wrong with it and some suggestions about what you might do to make things rosier for yourself. As Pollan says, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Larson, Erik.
Call Number: 92 D639La
This book provides a close-up exploration of Hitler’s rise to power through the eyes of the American Ambassador to Germany and his daughter.

Von Tunzelmann, Alex, 1977-
Call Number: 954.04 V948
Learn about the origins of modern India and Pakistan in this book that looks at the withdrawal of the British from India and the politics of its partition.

Twain, Mark, 1835-1910.
Call Number: 817 T969 1990
This is the original travelogue. Twain explores Europe & the Holy Land, bringing his trademark sarcasm and quick wit to the task. A very long, but nevertheless enjoyable, read.

Urrea, Luis Alberto.
All the men have left Tres Camarones for the United States, leaving its residents vulnerable to abuse from local bandidos. But after 19-year-old Nayeli watches The Magnificent Seven, she and her friends hatch a plan to take back their village.

Krakauer, Jon.
Call Number: 796.012 K89-1
This book details the calamitous 1996 climbing season on Mt. Everest.

Kidd, Sue Monk.

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.

Tan, Amy.
This book follows four immigrant Chinese mothers and their American born daughters in a series of vignettes that explore the impact of their life experiences on their familial relations.

Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Call Number: 822.33 J9Du

Intrigue. Betrayal. Politics. Honor. Death. Find it all in this stirring tale of the last days of Julius Caesar as dramatized by William Shakespeare.

Stevenson, Bryan,
Call Number: 347.092 S847

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.


Jahren, Hope,
Call Number: 570.92 J25

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.


Kingsolver, Barbara.
This book follows William Shepherd, a man with a Mexican mother and an American father, as he experiences key events of the early 20th century in Mexico and in the United States. The roster of secondary characters includes Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Leon Trotsky, to name a few, and you learn a lot you didn't know about that period in history.

Brook, Vincent, 1946-
Call Number: 979.41 L881Bro
This book takes a look at local Los Angeles history through the lens of the movies. It provides a plethora of interesting details about LA in days gone by.

Perrotta, Tom, 1961-
A somewhat different version of the “post-apocalyptic” tale (seeing as it’s not clear that an apocalypse has actually occurred), this book follows a number of people recovering from a “left behind”-type event. It is an easy read.

Atkinson, Kate.

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.

Martel, Yann.

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. 

Zimbardo, Philip G.
Call Number: 157.3 Z71-1
This book explores the concept of evil by examining forces that pressure people psychologically and socially. Read it as a sort of vaccination against succumbing to evil yourself.

Backman, Fredrik, 1981-
If you’re looking for an amusing but not light-hearted book, one that doesn’t shy away from what makes life grim and depressing, without leaving you feeling grim and depressed when you’ve finished the book, then this is the book for you. It tells the tale of a grumpy old man named Ove and what happens when new, kind of pushy, neighbors move in, a cat adopts him, and his old nemesis’ family needs help, just when he wants to end it all.

Winchester, Simon.
Call Number: 509.2 N374Wi
This biography of Joseph Needham is a vehicle for you to learn all about the thing Needham loved - the history of science in China.

Frankl, Viktor E. 1905-1997.
Call Number: 150.1925 F831 1992a
This book combines a memoir of Frankl's experience in concentration camps with an introduction to the field of psychology that he founded.

O'Brian, Patrick, 1914-2000.
Call Number: Ed.a

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, Tim.
Call Number: 384.509 W959

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.

Moyes, Jojo, 1969-

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, William, 1564-1616.
Call Number: 822.33 M5Cr

Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice asks you to choose between justice and mercy. Read it and decide which camp you fall in.

Morrison, Toni.
This story follows Florens, who is sold away from her mother, Jacob, the man who buys Florens, and the women in his life, and provides a look at all the forces impinging on the lives of women in the late 1600s in America.

Melville, Herman, 1819-1891.
Call Number: Ed.x

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.

Kidder, Tracy.
Call Number: 610.92 F235Ki
This biography of humanitarian and doctor Paul Farmer explores his work in Haiti (and elsewhere), in the process exposing you to some of the horrors to be found in the world, as well as to people who do astoundingly good work.

Sotomayor, Sonia, 1954-
Call Number: 347.092 S718

In this engaging memoir, explore one woman’s life and learn how she overcame barriers of poverty, race, and illness to achieve great success.

Child, Julia.
Call Number: 641.092 C536
Explore France and French cooking with Julia Child in this memoir. It will leave you hungry for food and for interesting life experiences of your own.

Taylor, Jill Bolte, 1959-
Call Number: 616.81 T243

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.

Lahiri, Jhumpa.

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.

Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895,
Call Number: 92 D737-3 2014
This narrative, first published in 1845, remains a compelling account of the evils of slavery and offers thoughts still important today about the value of self-reliance, education, and freedom.

Flanagan, Richard, 1961-
Here is an expressively written book that tells the horrific story of Australian POWs working on the Thai-Burma Railway line for the Japanese during WWII. The nonlinear story drops in on its many characters at very different points in their lives before, during, and after the war. 

McCall Smith, Alexander, 1948-
Call Number: M
This linked set of stories follows Mma Precious Ramotswe as she sets up a detective agency in her native country of Botswana and begins solving cases.

Call Number: 883 H72Fa
Enjoy the classic tale of a man trying desperately to get home after war, a woman trying to keep her home intact, and a boy learning to be a man in the absence of his father.

Strout, Elizabeth.

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.

Shute, Nevil, 1899-1960.
Call Number: Ed.a
Looking for a book almost certain to make you cry? You’ve found it.

Gabaldon, Diana.
Call Number: Ed.d

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

Gladwell, Malcolm, 1963-
Call Number: 174 G543
This breezy book explores the qualities that successful people have that help to make them successful.

Clark, Walter Van Tilburg, 1909-1971.
Call Number: Ed.e

Explore questions of justice, violence, and the mob in this dissection of a lynching set in 19th century Nevada.

Winchester, Simon,
Call Number: 910.4 W759-1
Winchester tells the sweeping story of the Pacific Ocean by looking closely at ten events that have happened since 1950, and using the details of those events to collectively paint a fascinating picture of the ocean as a whole.

Butler, Octavia E.
Call Number: SF Ed.b
In a decaying America society, set in the not-too-distant future, 18-year-old empath Lauren Olamina leads a band of refugees from Southern to Northern California, sustained by belief in their new philosophy, Earthseed.

Solnit, Rebecca.
Call Number: 361.5 S688
This book explores a number of disasters to look at how the common individual really responds and challenges the belief that we are all savage beneath a thin veneer of civilization. It is long on anecdotes and the author's philosophy but does raise interesting points to ponder.

Follett, Ken.
Don't be put off by the size of this book. It is a compelling character-driven historical novel about a group of cathedral builders in England in the 1100s that will keep you turning pages until the end.

Sin, Ky?ng-suk.
An aging woman goes missing, spurring stories of love and guilt from her family in this South Korean novel.  An interesting choice of voice and a rich level of detail help bring depth to this universal human story. A mother's disappearance in a Seoul subway station elicits reflection on the part of her children, husband and the mother herself. The children and father suddenly realize how they have taken her for granted, and reminisce about the sacrifices made by the mother.

Irving, John, 1942-
Call Number: Ed.a
A man reflects on the miraculous life of his friend, and explores questions of faith, fate, and politics in this complex novel.

Winchester, Simon
Call Number: 423 O985-2Win

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.

Nafisi, Azar.
Call Number: 370.92 N146
This book follows a female professor and her students as they are forced to take their class out of the university and into their homes. Despite the social pressures they experience during this time of revolution, they continue to study classics of English literature.

Ishiguro, Kazuo, 1954-
Call Number: Ed.c
 A man formerly lacking a certain amount of self-awareness, reflects on events from his past during a road trip in this evocative, thought-provoking novel.

Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Call Number: 822.33 R3Cro
An ambitious man plots, schemes, and murders to reach his goal, only to face a haunted and inglorious end.

Kolbert, Elizabeth.
Call Number: 575.7 K81
This very interesting, highly readable book paints a picture of the 5 major extinction events in the Earth's history and uses that as a springboard to discuss the 6th one, which is an event that we are currently both in the middle of, and the cause of.

See, Lisa.
Follow the lives of a pair of women in 19th century China, and experience vicariously everything from the agony of foot binding to the atrocity of war.

Lopez, Steve.
Call Number: 789.14 A977Lo

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.

Vásquez, Juan Gabriel, 1973-

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.

Fadiman, Anne, 1953-
Call Number: 610.696 F145
Explore the collision of cultures in this medical history of one Hmong family's experience with their daughter's epilepsy and the American doctors who treat her. Altogether a fascinating read.

Roach, Mary.
Call Number: 610.71 R628
Have you ever wondered what will happen to your body when you're no longer here? This informative book looks at some of the possibilities in, at times, unnerving detail.

Wroblewski, David.
Reviewers of this book commonly resort to describing it as Hamlet-esque - which may give you some hints as to plot elements. It is set in Wisconsin and follows the story of the mute Edgar as he grows up on a farm that breeds very special dogs.

Kidder, Tracy.
Call Number: 301.45096757 K46

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.

McEwan, Ian.
 In this work a young woman takes on the task of encouraging a novelist to write in a secret service driven plan, to foment anti-communist cultural works… or so it seems.  

Greenblatt, Stephen, 1943-
Call Number: 901 G798

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.

Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870.
Call Number: Ed.oo

 “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.

book cover
Goodwin, Doris Kearns.
Call Number: 92 L736Goo

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.

Hurston, Zora Neale.
Call Number: Ed.g
This lyrically written novel follows the life of an African-American woman in Florida through the early part of the 20th century.

Maḥfūẓ, Najīb, 1911-2006.
Call Number: Ed.b

A recently released prisoner winds up on an ill-fated revenge quest in this stream of consciousness novel by Egyptian Nobel Winner Mahfouz.

Achebe, Chinua.
Call Number: Ed.c
This book, by an African, is about the life of the Igbo people around the time the British were busy colonizing the region. It provides a interesting, informative look at a people and a place.

Harding, Paul, 1967-
This book has a non-linear, vaguely magical-realist/transcendentalist plot and some incredibly beautiful descriptive language. An interesting book to try to puzzle out.

Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968.
Call Number: 973.91 S819 2012
Looking for a road trip novel with all the trimmings (and an excellent dog as a bonus)? Give this classic memoir a try.

Azuela, Mariano, 1873-1952.
Call Number: Ed.a
This book takes a realistic and gritty look at a band of fighters during the Mexican Revolution.

Wister, Owen, 1860-1938.
Call Number: W Ed.r

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.

Jin, Ha, 1956-
This is an intimate look at the relationship between a Chinese army doctor, his wife, and the woman he is in love with.

Strayed, Cheryl, 1968-
Call Number: 813 S913S

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, Maxine Hong.
Call Number: 92 K553 1989

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.  

Didion, Joan.
Call Number: 810.92 D556
Joan Didion writes about her life in the year following her husband's death, a year that saw her daughter suffer from a serious illness. It is a moving memoir of loss.

Fowler, Therese.

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.


Ackerman, Diane, 1948-
Call Number: 940.53438 A182
This book tells the tale of the Director of the Warsaw Zoo and his wife during World War II as they managed to shelter hundreds of Jews from the Nazis.