book list page imageBooks by the Lake was begun in 1998.

Here is a complete list of titles that have been discussed over the years. Book titles in the list are linked to the library’s catalog where you can find descriptions of the books and where you can place a hold on the title.

September 2020 (Summer Read): Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko

September 2019 (Summer Read): Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind 
October 2019: Tommy Orange’s There There
November 2019: Charles Frazier’s Varina
December 2019: Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
January 2020: Tara Westover’s Educated
February 2020: Andrew Sean Greer’s Less
March 2020: Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend  (Discussion canceled due to COVID-19 shutdown)
April 2020: Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay with Me
May 2020: Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time
June 2020: Anthony Horowitz’s The Word is Murder

September 2018 (Summer Reads): Jane Harper’s The Dry  and Tana French’s In the Woods
October 2018: Christina Henriquez’s The Book of Unknown Americans
November 2018: Lisa Ko’s The Leavers
December 2018: Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
January 16, 2019 Gaiman, Neil. The Ocean at the End of the Lane
February 20, 2019 Grann, David. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
March 20, 2019 Gyaasi, Ya. Homegoing
April 17, 2019 Jones, Tayari. An American Marriage
May 15, 2019 Saunders, George. Lincoln in the Bardo
June 19, 2019 Frankel, Laurie. This Is How It Always Is

In Canadian author Hooper’s debut, 82-year-old Etta takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots, and begins walking from rural Saskatchewan to Halifax. Drawing on wisdom and whimsy of astonishing grace and maturity, Hooper has written an irresistibly enchanting novel that explores mysteries of love, the horrors of war and perils of loneliness, and the tenacity of time and fragility of memory. Joyce’s first novel is a gentle and genteel charmer, brimming with British quirkiness yet quietly haunting in its poignant and wise examination of love and devotion about recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry who is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from an old friend, who he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie–who is 600 miles away.

A totalitarian regime has ordered all books to be destroyed, but one of the book burners suddenly realizes their merit. Classic that resonates today. (1967)

For August, running into a long-ago friend sets in motion resonant memories and transports her to a time and a place she thought she had mislaid: 1970s Brooklyn, where friendship was everything and where the girls believed that they were amazingly beautiful, brilliantly talented, with a future that belonged to them. But beneath the hopeful promise there was a dangerous place. (2016)

Bookstore owner A. J. Fikry is offered the chance to make his life over when a mysterious and unexpected package arrives on the heels of the theft of his most prized possession, a rare collection of Edgar Allan Poe poems. (2014).

The voice of Music narrates the tale of its most beloved disciple, young Frankie Presto, a war orphan raised by a blind music teacher in a small Spanish town. But his gift is also his burden, as he realizes, through his music, he can actually affect people’s futures. (2015)

Follows a Viet Cong agent as he spies on a South Vietnamese army general and his compatriots as they start a new life in 1975 Los Angeles. (2015)

Pak Jun Do is the son of a man who runs a North Korean orphanage — and like all the actual, expendable orphans, as he ages out he is assigned the most dangerous jobs in service to the state. But he eventually manages to find happiness. As an exploration of life in North Korea, there’s nothing quite like this impeccably researched, well-written novel. (2012).

In this enthralling international bestseller, two girls live inconspicuous lives in the center of an elegant Paris apartment building. It is only when a stranger moves into their building–and sees through the girls’ disguises–that Paloma and Rene discover their kindred spirits. (2008)

On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history. A couple of unschooled Dayton bicycle mechanics who
were men of exceptional courage and determination, and of far-ranging intellectual interests and ceaseless curiosity, much of which they attributed to their upbringing. (2015)

A girl walks into a shop and finds a painting in this irresistible blend of art and intrigue along the lines of Tartt’s The Goldfinch. (2015) One of Leane’s Top 10 of 2015

Decades after Alice’s little brother goes missing during a Midsummer’s Eve party, a young London policewoman sets off a series of events that reveal shocking truths. Missing babies, maternal sacrifice, and secrets, secrets, secrets—Morton offers generous clues, only to peel back deeper layers just when the truth seems close. The story ricochets among 2003, 1911, and 1933 with great ease. There is a procedural element to the story for traditional mystery readers, and it is not short on heart-wrenching choices and rich characters. (2015)

  • October 19, 2016 Doug Most’s The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway NONFICTION

Documents the late-19th-century story of the dramatic and sometimes deadly competition between New York and Boston to build the first American subway, describing the rivalry between two brother subway engineers and their famous supporters against a backdrop of period economics and politics. (2014)

Don Tillman, a brilliant geneticist, thinks that having women fill out a six-page, double-sided questionnaire before a date is logical and reasonable. Rosie Jarman, an impetuous barmaid, thinks Don should loosen up and learn to live a little. Follow the unlikely pair in this laugh-out-loud, feel-good story of unexpected joys, discovery and love. (2013) WAKEFIELD READS CHOICE FOR 2016.

Wonderful combination of magical realism, historical perspective, and intriguing characters in this story that bounces back and forth in time. A roller coaster of a read! This is the story of a librarian from a splintered family with a tragic past who is gifted a mysterious book that leads him to dive deep into his family’s history, all while his present life seems to be falling to pieces around him. If you loved Morgenstern’s The Night Circus or Kostova’s The Historian, this is a book for you (2015) One of Leane’s Top 10 of 2015.

Bring your nominations for the April ballot to the January & February 2017 meetings.
“A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another” (2014)

  • February 15, 2017 Lily King’s Euphoria

When renowned but controversial American anthropologist Nell Stone arrives in 1930s Papua New Guinea with her husband and colleague Fen, they find a willing guide and assistant in Andrew Bankson, an English linguist studying the isolated Kiona tribe while recovering from a failed suicide attempt. As the three collaborate on their research, Bankson’s growing obsession with Nell adds further strain to her marriage to Fen, who’s already threatened by his wife’s greater fame and professional reputation. Loosely based on the lives and careers of anthropologist Margaret Mead and her second and third husbands, Euphoria is an atmospheric and richly detailed glimpse of a bygone time and place. (2014)

  • March 15, 2017 Michael Blanding’s The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps NONFICTION. GROUP DISCUSSION ONLINE DUE TO PROGRAM CANCELLATION

“The story of an infamous crime, a revered map dealer with an unsavory secret, and the ruthless subculture that consumed him. Once considered a respectable antiquarian map dealer, E. Forbes Smiley spent years doubling as a map thief -until he was finally arrested slipping maps out of books in the Yale University library. The Map Thief interweaves Smiley’s escapades with the stories of the explorers and mapmakers he knew better than anyone. Blanding has pieced together an unforgettable story of high-stakes crime.” (2014)

  • April 19, 2017 Stephen Kiernan’s The Hummingbird
    In this indelible story, a hospice nurse’s new patient is a dying historian whose manuscript plays a pivotal part in this tale as they deal with the end of his life and she with trying to ease her husband’s re-entry into civilian life after war. (2015) One of Leane’s Top 10 of 2015
  • May 17, 2017 Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove
  • This tale of curmudgeonly Ove is bittersweet but a small symphony on aging and family. Laugh out loud, as well as think about serious issues. A curmudgeon hides a terrible personal loss beneath a cranky and short-tempered exterior while clashing with new neighbors, a boisterous family whose chattiness and habits lead to unexpected friendship. (2014) One of Leane’s Top 10 of 2015.
  • June 21, 2017 Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale
  • HISTORICAL FICTION. Reunited when the elder’s husband is sent to fight in World War II, French sisters Vianne and Isabelle find their bond as well as their respective beliefs tested by a world that changes in horrific ways. (2015)

  • September 18, 2013 Something About This Generation:
    Sheila Weller’s Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell And Carly Simon–and the Journey of a Generation & Gail Collins’s When Everything Changed:The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. Both Nonfiction.

Weller, Sheila. Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly
Simon–and the Journey of Generation
. A portrait of three of the Twentieth century’s most important musical artists offers a female perspective on coming of age during the 1960s as viewed through the lives and careers of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon. 2008.
Collins, Gail. When everything changed: the amazing journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. Chronicles the revolution of women’s civil rights throughout the past half century, drawing on oral history and research in a variety of disciplines while celebrating Hillary Clinton’s recent presidential campaign. 2009.

For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy’s sole evidence of the past is an old photograph; a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuumlehrer of Buchenwald. 2004.

Raised by parents so intentionally isolated that they speak their own hybrid dialect, abused youth Marjorie witnesses her parents’ submission to a sadistic cult leader before she is rescued by another abuse survivor who teaches her stoneworking skills. MA Must Read 2012. 2011

  • December 18, 2013 Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Nonfiction.

Demonstrates how introverted people are misunderstood and undervalued in modern culture, charting the rise of extrovert ideology while sharing anecdotal examples of how to use introvert talents to adapt to various situations. 2012.

When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin. Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where she finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. 2010.

“A stunning story of love, sexual obsession, treachery, and tragedy, about an artist and her most famous muse in Paris between the world wars. Paris, 1927. Ellis Avery gives the reader a tantalizing window into a lost Paris, an age already vanishing as the inexorable forces of history close in on two tangled lives. Spellbinding and provocative, this is a novel about genius and craft, love and desire, regret and, most of all, hope that can transcend time and circumstance.” 2012.

Follows the experiences of teenage Alice during her father’s deployment to Iraq, an agonizing waiting period during which she gains new independence and falls in love while trying to be strong for her mother and younger sister. Winner 2012 MA Fiction 2012. 2011

The award-winning author presents his most romantic and enjoyable novel yet that follows a young Italian innkeeper and his almost-love affair with a beautiful American starlet, which draws him into a glittering world filled with unforgettable characters. 2012.

  • May 21, 2014 Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La: The Epic Story of World War II Plane Crash Into the Stone Age. Nonfiction.

Award-winning former Boston Globe reporter Mitchell Zuckoff unleashes the exhilarating, untold story of an extraordinary World War II rescue mission, where a plane crash in the South Pacific plunged a trio of U.S. military personnel into the jungle-clad land of New Guinea. 2011.

A novel set on a remote Australian island, where a childless couple live quietly running a lighthouse, until a boat carrying a baby washes ashore. The choice they make as a couple comes to haunt them, their unexpected happiness replaced by guilt and mistrust. Stedman draws the reader into her emotionally complex story right from the beginning, with lush descriptions of this savage and beautiful landscape, and vivid characters with whom we can readily empathize. Hers is a stunning and memorable debut. 2012.

  • September 19, 2012. David McCullough’s John Adams. NONFICTION

Chronicles the life of America’s second president, including his youth, his career as a Massachusetts farmer and lawyer, his marriage to Abigail, his rivalry with Thomas Jefferson, and his influence on the birth of the United States. 2001

A chance encounter with a handsome banker in a jazz bar on New Year’s Eve 1938 catapults Wall Street secretary Katey Kontent into the upper echelons of New York society, where she befriends a shy multimillionaire, an Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, and a single-minded widow.

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells–taken without her knowledge–became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer and viruses; helped lead to in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks is buried in an unmarked grave. Her family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. The story of the Lacks family is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of–From publisher description.

Growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans, Bethia Mayfield yearns for an education that is closed to her due to her gender. As soon as she can, she slips away to explore the island’s glistening beaches and observes its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other. A Massachusetts Center for the Book Must Read Adult Fiction, 2012.

A researcher at a pharmaceutical company, Marina Singh journeys into the heart of the Amazonian delta to check on a field team that has been silent for two years–a dangerous assignment that forces Marina to confront the ghosts of her past.

  • February 20, 2013 Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra Nonfiction

Separates fact from fiction to reconstruct the life of the most influential woman of her era, revealing Cleopatra as a complex woman and shrewd monarch whose life and death reshaped the ancient world.

  • March 20, 2013 Toni Morrison’s A Mercy

In exchange for a bad debt, an Anglo-Dutch trader takes on Florens, a young slave girl, who feels abandoned by her slave mother and who searches for love–first from an older servant woman at her master’s new home, and then from a handsome free blacksmith, in a novel set in late seventeenth-century America.

When a bizarre phenomenon causes the cataclysmic disappearances of numerous people all over the world, Kevin Garvey, the new mayor of a once-comfortable suburban community, struggles to help his neighbors heal while enduring the fanatical religious conversions of his wife and son. A Massachusetts Center for the Book Must Read Adult Fiction, 2012.

Follows the life of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, as she navigates 1920s Paris.

A fierce competition is underway, a contest between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in “a game,” in which each must use their powers of illusion to best the other. Unbeknownst to them, this game is a duel to the death, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. A Massachusetts Center for the Book Must Read Adult Fiction, 2012.

In 1939 New York City, Joe Kavalier, a refugee from Hitler’s Prague, joins forces with his Brooklyn-born cousin, Sammy Clay, to create comic-book superheroes inspired by their own fantasies, fears, and dreams. Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Winner. 2000.

Nearing the end of his life, Enzo, a dog with a philosopher’s soul, tries to bring together the family, pulled apart by a three year custody battle between daughter Zoe’s maternal grandparents and her father Denny, a race car driver. 2008

Feeling at the top of her game when she is suddenly diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, Harvard psychologist Alice Howland struggles to find meaning and purpose in her life as her concept of self gradually slips away. 2008

A tale loosely inspired by the life of Alexis de Tocqueville is set in the early nineteenth century and follows an unlikely friendship between a survivor of the French Revolution and an itinerant English engraver’s son. 2010.

Twin brothers born from a secret love affair between an Indian nun and a British surgeon in Addis Ababa, Marion and Shiva Stone come of age in an Ethiopia on the brink of revolution, where their love for the same woman drives them apart. 2009.

The compelling voice of a refugee illuminates the life-changing friendship between two women that began with a horrifying encounter on a secluded Nigerian beach. 2009

  • March 21, 2012. Linda Greenhouse’s Becoming Justice Blackmun: Harry Blackmun’s Supreme Court Journey. NONFICTION Led by group member

Reveals the workings of the U.S. Supreme Court, as seen through the eyes and writings of Justice Harry A. Blackmun, as he reflects on issues including the death penalty, abortion, and sex discrimination. 2006.

When artifacts from Japanese families sent to internment camps during World War II are uncovered during renovations at a Seattle hotel, Henry Lee embarks on a quest that leads to memories of growing up Chinese in a city rife with anti-Japanese sentiment. 2009.

In 1944, after the fall of Russia and the failed D-Day landings, half of Britain is occupied by enemy forces, and Sarah Lewis, a young farmer’s wife, awakens to find that her husband has disappeared, along with all of the men from her remote Welsh village. 2007.

  • September 15, 2010. Janet Wallach’s Desert Queen recounts the extraordinary life of Gertrude Bell, an English adventurer–adviser to kings, ally of Lawrence of Arabia–who explored the Arab world and helped create the modern Middle East. 2005. NONFICTION.

Mary Doria Russell’s Dreamers of the Day takes place in the wake of the Great War and the devastating influenza pandemic of 1919, forty-year-old Ohio schoolteacher Agnes Shanklin decides to use her inheritance to take a trip of a lifetime to Egypt and the Holy Land, where she meets T. E. Lawrence and Karl Weilbacher, a charming German spy with an intense interest in Lawrence. 2008. FICTION.

  • October 20, 2010. Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883 NONFICTION.

This expansive chronicle of a geologically unstable hot spot between the islands of Java and Sumatra, scene of the cataclysmic 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, conveys not only a wealth of scientific detail related to the event, but also addresses long-term ramifications for the social, political, economic, and religious fabric of the region. During the volcano’s final 20 hours and 56 minutes, sounds from Krakatoa’s eruption were heard 2968 miles away, and the air shock waves it created were recorded circling the globe seven times. The author cuts a broad swath as he transitions among topics as diverse as plate tectonics, the 16th-century Dutch-colonial spice trade, and the seeds of radical Islamic fundamentalism in Indonesia, but the telling is masterful and conscientious readers are rewarded by his elucidation of complex interrelationships. 2003.

Rendered a confident and supportive friend for her willingness to listen to her neighbors in genocide-stricken Rwanda, baker Angel Tungaraza provides decadent confections and transforming counsel to a series of troubled customers. 2009.

The lives of Jack and Joy Griffin always seem to come back to Cape Cod, where they honeymooned, as they experience the ups and downs of life, including the deaths of Jack’s parents, the marriage of their daughter, and Jack and Joy’s separation. 2009.

In seventeenth-century Amsterdam, Miguel Lienzo, a Portuguese-Jewish trader desperate to recover his lost fortune, enters into a partnership with seductive Geertruid Damhuis to introduce coffee to the city, and confronts a ruthless adversary. 2003.

  • February 16, 2011. Malcom Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. NONFICTION.

Blink is about the first two seconds of looking–the decisive glance that knows in an instant. Gladwell campaigns for snap judgments and mind reading with a gift for translating research into splendid storytelling. 2005.

Stories for a Safer Wakefield March 2011 Adult Selection
Set in a NH winter, the story charts the slow descent of a small-town sheriff into violence, the corrupt legacy of an abusive, alcoholic father. 1989.

  • April 20, 2011. Kathryn Stockett’s The Help

Limited and persecuted by racial divides in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, three women, including an African-American maid, her sassy and chronically unemployed friend, and a recently graduated white woman, team up for a clandestine project. 2009.

Captures the delicate balance of class and gender in contemporary India as witnessed through the lives of two women–Sera Dubash, an upper middle-class housewife, and Bhima, an illiterate domestic hardened by a life of loss and despair. 2006.

At the edge of the continent, in the small town of Crosby, Maine, lives Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher who deplores the changes in her town and in the world at large but doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her. Thirteen linked tales present a heart-wrenching, penetrating portrait of ordinary coastal Mainers living lives of quiet grief intermingled with flashes of human connection. The collection is easy to read and impossible to forget. Its literary craft and emotional power will surprise readers unfamiliar with Strout.

In the House of the Spirits, the Trueba family embodies strong feelings from the beginning of the 20th century through the assassination of Allende in 1973. Daughter of Fortune is the story of a young woman’s quest for love and fortune during the California Gold Rush in San Francisco, and is followed in time by Portrait in Sepia. With her earliest memories erased by a brutal trauma, Aurora del Valle is raised amid great wealth in Chile by her shrewd, commanding grandmother. But her nights are tormented by a nightmare set in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

  • October 21, 2009. Mark Kurlansky’s Salt: A World History NON-FICTION

This book takes a look at an ordinary substance–salt, the only rock humans eat–and how it has shaped civilization from the very beginning. 2002.

Disenchanted with life and losing his cherished solitude in the wake of returning estranged family members, wealthy bachelor Hugo Whittier deliberately overindulges in tobacco use against the recommendations of his doctor and involves himself in the affairs of others. 2004.

In 1946, writer Juliet Ashton finds inspiration for her next book in her correspondence with a native of Guernsey, who tells her about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a book club born as an alibi during German occupation. 2008.

On Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, during the first half of the 20th century, the lives of four very different sisters slowly unravel. This unforgettable epic, which spans four generations, quotes Emily Bronte on the first page, so you can see where the inspiration lies. Filled with secrets, guilt, and redemption, this novel is haunting and beautifully written. It’s amazing that one family can be so devoted to each other yet, at the same time, keep so many secrets. Oprah pick. 1996. Group did not meet.

Diaz recounts the saga of Dominican American nerd-boy Oscar in irresistible, high-energy Spanglish. “You really want to know what being an X-Man feels like? Just be a smart bookish boy of color in a contemporary U.S. ghetto. Mamma mia! Like having bat wings or a pair of tentacles growing out of your chest.” That’s Oscar’s deal, but Diaz also has much to say about sci-fi fandom, bodacious chicas, and an ancient family curse. National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. 2007.

HISTORICAL. During the final months of World War II, a small group of people make their way westward across a ravaged Europe in a desperate attempt to reach British and American lines. 2008.

Fact and fiction blend in a historical novel that chronicles the relationship between seminal architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney, from their meeting, when they were each married to another, to the clandestine affair that shocked Chicago society. 2007

Teasing out the consequences of a simple thought experiment—what would happen if the human species were suddenly extinguished—Weisman has written a sort of pop-science ghost story, in which the whole earth is the haunted house. From a patch of primeval forest in Poland to monumental underground villages in Turkey, Weisman’s enthralling tour of the world of tomorrow explores what little will remain of ancient times while anticipating, often poetically, what a planet without us would be like. 2007.

Three friends on the verge of their thirties–beautiful, sophisticated Marina Thwaite; Danielle, a quiet TV producer; and Julius, a freelance writer–make their way through New York City, until Marina’s idealistic cousin, Bootie, arrives to complicate their lives. 2006

  • September 17, 2008–Jennifer Haigh: Mrs. Kimble and Baker Towers. These selections are read over the summer and discussed in September.
    Mrs. Kimble. This novel follows twenty-five years in the life of Ken Kimble as seen through the eyes of his three wives, from Birdie, who struggles with his abandonment; to heiress Joan, who is recovering from a personal loss; to Dinah, who suffers from an unhappy past. 2003.
    Baker Towers. The decade following World War II becomes one of tragedy, excitement, and unexpected change for the five Novak children and the residents of their western Pennsylvania community of company houses, church festivals, and union squabbles. 2005.
  • October 15, 2008. Roland Merullo’s Revere Beach Elegy: A Memoir of Home and Beyond. NON-FICTION
    The author returns to his childhood heaven of Revere, Massachusetts, to begin an intricate, impressionistic portrait of his rich and complex life. The tough codes of Revere’s working-class streets mix with the warmth and affirmation of family to form a background against which Merullo’s later wanderings are always set. 2002. 2003 Massachusetts Book Award for Non-Fiction.
  • November 19, 2008. Lee Smith’s On Agate Hill
    Discovered in the ruins of a North Carolina plantation, an old box of mementos brings to life the world of young Molly Petree, an orphan growing up in the smoldering remains of the post-Civil War American South. 2006.
  • December 17, 2008. Diane Setterfield’s Thirteenth Tale.
    When her health begins failing, the mysterious author Vida Winter decides to let Margaret Lea, a biographer, write the truth about her life, but Margaret needs to verify the facts since Vida has a history of telling outlandish tales. 2006.
  • January 21, 2009. Orhan Pamuk’s Snow.
    After years of lonely political exile, Turkish poet Ka returns to Istanbul to attend his mother’s funeral and learns about a series of suicides among pious girls forbidden to wear headscarves. 2004.
  • February 18, 2009. Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River
    The quiet 1960s midwestern life of the Land family—father Jeremiah, and children, Reuben, Davy and Swede–is upended when Davy kills two teenage boys who have come to harm the family. On the morning of his sentencing, Davy escapes from his cell and the Lands set out in search of him. Their search is at once a heroic quest, a tragedy, a love story, and a haunting meditation on the possibility of magic in the everyday world. 2001.
  • March 18, 2009. Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.
    A story of friendship set in nineteenth-century China follows an elderly woman and her companion as they communicate their hopes, dreams, joys, and tragedies through a unique secret language. 2005.
  • April 15, 2009. Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics
    Having moved from one academic outpost to another throughout her childhood, Blue van Meer attends the elite St. Gallway School in her senior year, where the deaths of a teacher and student awaken her analytical instincts. 2006.
  • May 20, 2009. Nicole Krauss’s History of Love.
    Sixty years after a book’s publication, its author remembers his lost love and missing son, while a teenage girl named for one of the book’s characters seeks her namesake, as well as a cure for her widowed mother’s loneliness. 2005
  • July 15, 2009. Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. (NON-FICTION)
    Goodwin’s perspective offers fresh insights into Lincoln’s leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation. The author makes the case for Lincoln’s political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. 2005.
  • September 19, 2007–Austen Envy: Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Karen Joy Fowler’s The Jane Austen Book Club, and Laurie Horowitz’s The Family Fortune.
    The story of Anne Elliot and the love she once had for a naval officer drives Austen’s Persuasion. Anne had been persuaded by her family that he was not suitable. And regretfully, she lets him slip away. Years later, they meet again. In Fowler’s The Jane Austen Book Club, six Californians get together to for a book club to discuss the novels of Jane Austen, as their lives are turned upside down by troubled marriages, illicit affairs, changing relationships, and love. In Horowitz’s first novel, The Family Fortune, Jane, the sensible middle daughter in an old-guard Boston Brahman family whose once enormous fortune has vanished, finds herself the sole support of her family until love turns her life upside down.
  • October 17, 2007. Julia Glass’s Three Junes. This stunning novel reveals the interconnected lives, loves, and relationships of different generations of the McLeod family over the course of three crucial summers in stunning prose. (2002).
  • November 28, 2007. Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and the Madness at the Fair that Changed America. (NON-FICTION). This is a gripping tale about two men — one a creative genius, the other a mass murderer — who turned the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair into their playground. Set against the dazzle of a dream city whose technological marvels presaged the coming century, this real-life drama of good and evil unfolds with all the narrative tension of a fictional thriller. (2003)
  • December 19, 2007. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, And Indonesia. (NON-FICTION/MEMOIR) Gilbert, author of Stern Men, chronicles her intrepid quest for spiritual healing, and her sensuous and audacious spiritual odyssey is found here to be as deeply pleasurable as it is enlightening. (2006)
  • January 16, 2008. Kim Edward’s The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. In a tale spanning twenty-five years, a doctor delivers his newborn twins during a snowstorm and, rashly deciding to protect his wife from their baby daughter’s affliction with Down Syndrome, turns her over to a nurse, who secretly raises the child. (2006)
  • February 20, 2008. Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper. Conceived to provide a bone marrow match for her leukemia-stricken sister, teenage Kate begins to question her moral obligations in light of countless medical procedures and decides to fight for the right to make decisions about her own body. (2004)
  • March 19, 2008. Kiran Desai’s Inheritance of Loss. In this Booker Prize Winner, in a crumbling house in the remote northeastern Himalayas, an embittered, elderly judge finds his peaceful retirement turned upside down by the arrival of his orphaned granddaughter, Sai. (2006)
  • April 16, 2008. Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. As the Reverend John Ames approaches the hour of his own death, he writes a letter to his son chronicling three previous generations of his family, a story that stretches back to the Civil War and reveals uncomfortable family secrets. (2004)
  • May 21, 2008. Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. Ninety-something-year-old Jacob Jankowski remembers his time in the circus as a young man during the Great Depression, and his friendship with Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, and Rosie, the elephant, who gave them hope. (2006)
  • July 16, 2008. Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. An astonishingly rich re-creation of the land of Oz, this book retells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn’t so wicked after all. Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world rich with imagination and allegory, Wicked just might change the reputation of one of the most sinister characters in literature. Also a Broadway musical. (1995)
  • September 20, 2006–Village Vignettes: Joanne Harris’s Five Quarters of the Orange and Rosina Lippi’s Homestead.
    In Five Quarters of the Orange (2001), Framboise Dartigen, returning to the small Loire village of her childhood, is relieved when no one recognizes her. Decades earlier, during the German occupation, her family was driven away because of a tragedy that still haunts the town. Framboise has come back to run a little cafe serving the recipes her mother recorded in a scrapbook. But when her cooking receives national attention, her anonymity begins to shatter. Seeking answers, Framboise begins to see that hidden among the recipes for crepes and liquors are clues that will lead Framboise to the truth of long ago.
    Another exploration of European village life is found in Lippi’s Homestead (1998), a debut collection of 12 linked stories portraying the life of a small Austrian village and its inhabitants over the course of the 20th century. The novel opens in 1909 with Anna of Bengat homestead and her love for rough, beautiful Peter, her husband, and for their children, and for her dead sister’s boys, feeble-minded Stante and crippled Michel. As the years pass, the story unfolds through the eyes of the women of Anna’s family and the interconnected families of Bent Elbow homestead. Against this simple backdrop, Lippi unfolds the grand passions that animate the human heart. Each chapter adds layers of meaning from a different character’s point of view, and the life of this village gathers force and complexity, like a living thing.
  • October 18, 2006. Carlo Eire’s Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy (NON-FICTION/MEMOIR).
    “Metaphors matter to me, especially perfect ones,” Yale historian Eire writes in this beautifully fashioned memoir, as he recounts one of many wonderfully vibrant stories from his boyhood in 1950s Havana. (2002).
  • November 15, 2006. Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America. In a novel of alternative history, aviation hero Charles A. Lindbergh defeats Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election, negotiating an accord with Adolf Hitler and accepting his conquest of Europe and anti-Semitic policies. (2004)
  • December 20, 2006. Tobias Wolff’s Old School. During his senior year at an elite New England prep school, a young man who had struggled to fit in with his contemporaries finds his life unraveling due to the school’s obsession with literary figures and their work. (2003)
  • January 17, 2007. John Perkin’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. (NON-FICTION) This is the story of one man’s experiences inside the intrigue, greed, corruption and little-known government and corporate activities that America has been involved in since World War II, and which have dire consequences for the future of democracy and the world. (2005)
  • February 28, 2007. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Rand’s magnum opus is a philosophical thriller, the story of a society’s slow collapse as the men of ability go on strike against the creed that treats them as sacrificial animals. From the blast furnaces of a steel mill to the drawing rooms of high society, from the classrooms of philosophers to the decks of a pirate ship, Ayn Rand portrays the role of reason in Man’s life. (1957)
  • March 21, 2007. Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies. Traveling from India to New England and back again, the stories in this debut collection unerringly chart the emotional journeys of characters seeking love beyond the barriers of nations and generations. (1999)
  • April 25, 2007. Bharati Mukherjee’s Desirable Daughters. The novel chronicles the journeys of three Brahman women as they follow divergent paths from their home in Calcutta and a rigid Indian society to seek new lives for themselves on two separate continents. (2002)
  • May 16, 2007. Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, two boys are sent to the country for reeducation, where their lives take an unexpected turn when they meet the beautiful daughter of a local tailor and stumble upon a forbidden stash of Western literature. (2001)
  • June 20, 2007. Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Oskar Schell, the nine-year-old son of a man killed in the World Trade Center attacks, searches the five boroughs of New York City for a lock that fits a black key his father left behind. (2005)
  • September 21, 2005–Reading Lolita & Gatsby in Wakefield: Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran: Memoir in Books NON-FICTION. For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. An inspired blend of memoir and literary criticism, this book is a moving testament to the power of art and its ability to change and improve people’s lives. (2003)
    Also read with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. In this Classic novel of the decadent 1920s, Jay Gatsby still adores Daisy Buchanan although she has married someone else, and he risks everything to lure her back. (1925) and Vladimir V. Nabokov’s Lolita. A Classic novel that studies the moral disintegration of a man whose obsessive desire to possess his step-daughter destroys the lives of those around him. (1958)
  • October 19, 2005. Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Could Cure the World. (NON-FICTION). At the center of this book stands Paul Farmer. Doctor, Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist, anthropologist, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, world-class Robin Hood, Farmer was brought up in a bus and on a boat, and in medical school found his life’s calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. This magnificent book shows how radical change can be fostered in situations that seem insurmountable, and it also shows how a meaningful life can be created, as Farmer—brilliant, charismatic, charming, both a leader in international health and a doctor who finds time to make house calls in Boston and the mountains of Haiti—blasts through convention to get results. Discussion will be lead by Group member.(2003)
  • November 16, 2005. Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening — until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots. (2002)
  • December 21, 2005. Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair. In a world where one can literally get lost in literature, Thursday Next, a Special Operative in literary detection, tries to stop the world’s Third Most Wanted criminal from kidnapping characters, including Jane Eyre, from works of literature. (2002)
  • January 18, 2006. Jim Fergus’s One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd. The story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial “Brides for Indians” program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man’s world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time. (1998)
  • February 15, 2006. Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being. A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing; one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover—these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel. (1984)
  • March 15, 2006. Anchee Min’s Red Azalea. (NON-FICTION/MEMOIR) The true story of what it was like growing up in Mao’s China, where the soul was secondary to the state, beauty was mistrusted, and love could be punishable by death. Newsweek calls Anchee Min’s prose “as delicate and evocative as a traditional Chinese brush painting.” (1995)
  • April 26, 2006. Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Traces the unlikely friendship of a wealthy Afghan youth and a servant’s son, in a tale that spans the final days of Afghanistan’s monarchy to the atrocities of the present day. (2003)
  • May 17, 2006. Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the the Dog in the Night-time. Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically-gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor’s dog and uncovers secret information about his mother. (2003)
  • June 21, 2006. T.C. Boyle’s Tortilla Curtain. While leading their lives in their gated hilltop community in Los Angeles, Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher accidentally meet Mexican illegal aliens and their encounter brings them together in a relationship of error and misunderstanding. (1995)
  • September 22, 2004–Feeding the Hungry Heart: Selections from MFK Fisher’s The Art of Eating (1954 & 1976). Please read all of The Gastronomical Me (350-372), including the introduction, and any other parts of The Art of Eating that appeals to you. Most critics consider The Gastronomical Me (1946) to be the pinnacle of Fisher’s career. An accumulation of culinary tales from 1912 through 1941, the book contains vignettes of meals and memories from Fisher’s childhood through the rising tension in Europe between the wars. Also read: Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table. New York Times restaurant critic Reichl shares lessons learned at the hands (and kitchen counters) of family members and friends throughout her life, from growing up with her taste-blind mother to the comfort of cream puffs while away at boarding school. (1998).
    Also read: Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures at the Table. This book begins where the first book ended, tracing Reichl’s evolution from chef to food writer while detailing the dissolution of her first marriage, the start of a second, and motherhood at the age of 40. (2001)
  • October 20, 2004. Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. After her “stand-in mother,” a bold black woman named Rosaleen, insults the three biggest racists in town, Lily Owens joins Rosaleen on a journey to Tiburon, South Carolina, where they are taken in by three black, bee-keeping sisters. (2002)
  • November 17, 2004. Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. (NON-FICTION). A vivid, deeply felt, and meticulously researched account of the disastrous encounter between two disparate cultures: Western medicine and Eastern spirituality. In this case, the Lees, a Hmong refugee family in Merced, CA and their daughter Lia who was seven years old and, in the eyes of her American doctors, brain dead. In the Lees’ view, Lia’s soul had fled. (1997)
  • December 15, 2004. India Knight’s My Life on a Plate. Meet thirty-three-year-old Clara Hutt: irreverent, sometimes unkind, always self-deprecating. Clara is a part-time magazine writer with a perpetually mysterious husband and two small boys, and some days she wakes up with the feeling that her life isn’t all it should be. With razor-sharp wit and a healthy dose of insight into married life, India Knight takes readers on a continually entertaining ride through one woman’s bumpy search for fulfillment. (2001)
  • January 19, 2005. Donna Woolfolk Cross’s Pope Joan. Cross combines legend with historical fact in a novel about Joan of Ingelheim, the female pope. Born in 814 to an English missionary father and a Saxon mother, Joan is frustrated by the limitations imposed on her life because she is a girl. After disguising herself as a boy in order to get the education she seeks, she eventually makes her way to Rome, where her gifts as a healer enable her to become the confidante of two popes. In the midst of vicious papal politics, Joan becomes pope herself. (1996)
  • February 16, 2005. Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler. Ten different novels are interwoven into one. Each chapter begins a new book, a new plot, and a different writing style–stories of menace, spies, mystery, and premonition–with explorations of how and why we read, make meanings, and get our bearings or fail to. Meanwhile the Reader and the Other Reader try to reach, and read, each other. (1981)
  • March 16, 2005. Ian McEwan’s Antonement. (NOT IN NOBLE) The major events of Booker Prize winner McEwan’s novel occur one day in the summer of 1935. Briony Tallis, a precocious 13-year-old with an overactive imagination, witnesses an incident between Cecilia, her older sister, and Robbie Turner, son of the Tallis family’s charwoman. Already startled by the sexual overtones of what she has seen, she is completely shocked that evening when she surreptitiously reads a suggestive note Robbie has mistakenly sent Cecilia. It then becomes easy for her to believe that the shadowy figure who assaults her cousin Lola late that night is Robbie. Briony’s testimony sends Robbie to prison and, through an early release, into the army on the eve of World War II. Gradually understanding what she has done, Briony seeks atonement first through a career in nursing and then through writing, with the novel itself framed as a literary confession it has taken her a lifetime to write. (2002)
  • April 27, 2005. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude. The story of a century lived in the mythic village of Macondo, somewhere in South America. The Buendia family struggles to create a life in a place where everything is larger than life and the rain never stops. (1971)
  • May 18, 2005. George Howe Colt’s The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home (NON-FICTION) In this intimate and poignant history of a sprawling century-old summerhouse on Cape Cod, Colt reveals not just one family’s fascinating story but a vanishing way of life. Faced with the sale of the treasured house where he had spent forty-two summers, Colt returned for one last August with his wife and young children. The Big House, the author’s loving tribute to his one-of-a-kind family home, interweaves glimpses of that elegiac final visit with memories of earlier summers spent at the house and of the equally idiosyncratic people who lived there over the course of five generations. (2003)
  • June 15, 2005. Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. Meet Pi Patel, a young man on the cusp of adulthood when fate steps in and hastens his lessons in maturity. En route with his family from their home in India to Canada, their cargo ship sinks, and Pi finds himself adrift in a lifeboat — alone, save for a few surviving animals, some of the very same animals Pi’s zookeeper father warned him would tear him to pieces if they got a chance. But Pi’s seafaring journey is about much more than a struggle for survival. It becomes a test of everything he’s learned — about both man and beast, their creator, and the nature of truth itself. (2002)
  • September 17, 2003–Cape Exploration: Alice Hoffman’s Illumination Night. Elizabeth is an elderly widow suffering from spells of fantasy and failing sight. Andre and Vonny are a young couple trying to make ends meet. Jody is a teenage runaway. On the island of Chilmark near Martha’s Vineyard, they all come together. (1987)
    And Elizabeth McCracken’s The Giant’s House. An unusual love story set in 1950 about a little librarian on Cape Cod and the tallest boy in the world from a Somerville author. (1996)
  • October 15, 2003. Colum McCann’s This Side of Brightness. Spanning 70 years and three generations, this is an eloquent and profoundly moving tale of family, race, and redemption. In the early years of this century, Nathan Walker and his fellow sandhogs daily risk their lives burrowing beneath New York City’s East River to build the tunnels that will one day connect Manhattan and Brooklyn. Years later, Nathan’s descendant, a homeless man who calls himself Treefrog, is driven by guilt and a shameful secret to eke out a marginal existence in these same tunnels. (1999)
  • November 19, 2003. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This classic describes the clash between Elizabeth Bennet, the daughter of a country gentleman, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, a rich and aristocratic landowner. Austen reverses the convention of first impressions: “pride” of rank and fortune, and “prejudice” against Elizabeth’s inferiority of family, hold Darcy aloof; while Elizabeth is equally fired both by the pride of self-respect and by prejudice against Darcy’s snobbery. Ultimately, they come together in love and self-understanding. (1813)
  • December 17, 2003. Kent Haruf’s Plainsong. The intensely affecting story of family, tribulation, and tenacity, is set on the High Plains east of Denver where in the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher struggles to raise his two sons alone. (1999)
  • January 21, 2004. Bob Smith’s Hamlet’s Dresser: A Memoir. (NON-FICTION) A bookish, lonely child, his crush on the Bard’s work became love when, as an alienated teenager, he joined the American Shakespeare Theatre as Hamlet’s dresser. In time he would dress other characters, perform in small roles, become a coach and a watcher, and eventually lead senior citizens’ groups in Shakespeare-appreciation courses. But this ecstatic marriage was haunted by his sad, contorted childhood. (2003)
  • February 25, 2004. Richard Russo’s Straight Man. This funny and courageous novel is about a professor whose sense of humor is tested by the cosmic joke. Hank Devereaux, Jr., failed novelist, creative writing teacher, and estranged son of one of academe’s stars, is a hero whose cynicism must be mitigated by his love for family, friends and, ultimately, knowledge itself. (1998)
  • March 17, 2004. Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives. A Science Fiction classic that has often been a Banned Book. (1993)
  • April 21, 2004. Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. In this much-lauded novel, Enid faces the disappointments in her life as her husband’s health deteriorates, including her three grown children. This wry book about family dysfunction from city to city was never discussed on the Oprah Show because of the author’s wishes. (2001)
  • May 19, 2004. Bob Greene’s Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War. (NON-FICTION) When Bob Greene went home to central Ohio to be with his dying father, it set off a chain of events that led him to knowing his dad in a way he never had before, thanks to a quiet man who lived just a few miles away and changed the history of the world. In 1945, Paul Tibbets had piloted a plane called Enola Gay to the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where he dropped the atomic bomb. (2000)
  • June 16, 2004. Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague. When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated mountain village, a housemaid emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through her eyes, we follow the story of the plague year, 1666, as her fellow villagers make an extraordinary choice. Convinced by a visionary young minister, they elect to quarantine themselves within the village boundaries to arrest the spread of the disease. (2001)

Previous titles discussed in 1998 were Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve, and Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison.