At the last meeting of the Bring Your Own Book Club, a bunch of book lovers chatted about the books we’ve all been reading lately. Looks like we’ll be doing it again on January 15th if you’d like to join us.
Here’s all the books we discussed.
Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis
The world is not tame. Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof.
So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine.
Morning brings the realization that she’s alone—and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive with the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.
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Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria, she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. It’s 1915, and Elizabeth has volunteered to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian Genocide during the First World War. There she meets Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. After leaving Aleppo and traveling into Egypt to join the British Army, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, realizing that he has fallen in love with the wealthy young American.
Years later, their American granddaughter, Laura, embarks on a journey back through her family’s history, uncovering a story of love, loss–and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.
Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva
Charles Dickens is not feeling the Christmas spirit. His newest book is an utter flop, the critics have turned against him, relatives near and far hound him for money. While his wife plans a lavish holiday party for their ever-expanding family and circle of friends, Dickens has visions of the poor house. But when his publishers try to blackmail him into writing a Christmas book to save them all from financial ruin, he refuses. And a serious bout of writer’s block sets in.
Frazzled and filled with self-doubt, Dickens seeks solace in his great palace of thinking, the city of London itself. On one of his long night walks, in a once-beloved square, he meets the mysterious Eleanor Lovejoy, who might be just the muse he needs. As Dickens’ deadlines close in, Eleanor propels him on a Scrooge-like journey that tests everything he believes about generosity, friendship, ambition, and love. The story he writes will change Christmas forever.
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Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan
Thirteen-year-old Habo has always been different—light eyes, yellow hair and white skin. Not the good brown skin his family has and not the white skin of tourists. Habo is strange and alone. His father, unable to accept Habo, abandons the family; his mother can scarcely look at him. His brothers are cruel and the other children never invite him to play. Only his sister Asu loves him well. But even Asu can’t take the sting away when the family is forced from their small Tanzanian village, and Habo knows he is to blame.
Seeking refuge in Mwanza, Habo and his family journey across the Serengeti. His aunt is glad to open her home until she sees Habo for the first time, and then she is only afraid. Suddenly, Habo has a new word for himself: Albino. But they hunt Albinos in Mwanza because Albino body parts are thought to bring good luck. And soon Habo is being hunted by a fearsome man with a machete. To survive, Habo must not only run, but find a way to love and accept himself.
Letting Go of Literary Whiteness by Carlin Borsheim-Black
Rooted in examples from their own and others’ classrooms, the authors offer discipline-specific practices for implementing antiracist literature instruction in White-dominant schools. Each chapter explores a key dimension of antiracist literature teaching and learning, including designing literature-based units that emphasize racial literacy, selecting literature that highlights voices of color, analyzing Whiteness in canonical literature, examining texts through a critical race lens, managing challenges of race talk, and designing formative assessments for racial literacy and identity growth.
Orphan’s Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
They found him inside one of seventeen cauldrons in the courtyard, steeping in an indigo dye two shades darker than the summer sky. His arms and chin were propped over the copper edge, but the rest of Kemal Türkoglu, age ninety-three, had turned a pretty pale blue.
When Orhan’s brilliant and eccentric grandfather, who built a dynasty out of making kilim rugs, is found dead in a vat of dye, Orhan inherits the decades-old business. But his grandfather’s will raises more questions than it answers. Kemal has left the family estate to a stranger thousands of miles away, an aging woman in a retirement home in Los Angeles. Her existence and secrecy about her past only deepen the mystery of why Orhan’s grandfather would have left their home to this woman rather than to his own family.
Intent on righting this injustice, Orhan boards a plane to Los Angeles. There, over many meetings, he will unearth the story that eighty-seven-year-old Seda so closely guards–the story that, if told, has the power to undo the legacy upon which Orhan’s family is built, the story that could unravel Orhan’s own future.
The Amish Christmas Letters by Patricia Davids, Sarah Price, and Jennifer Beckstrand
With Christmas around the corner, it’s time for Amish families to include holiday greetings in their circle letters, each writer adding to a growing collection as it travels on to the next. In this delightful trio of stories, three cousins scattered across the country share their blessings-and reveal news of romantic surprises…
To win a friendly annual competition, matchmaker Marybeth Martin must bring one more couple together by Christmas. Her only prospect is a man more interested in a nanny than a wife-until his little girl shows him the light…. Struggling farmer’s daughter Katie Mae Kauffman discovers that she and a local widower and father of four can harvest more crops-and profits-together than separately. But she’ll have to put pride aside to make room for unexpected love…. Corralling an unruly brood of seven is not babysitter Carolyn Yutzy’s first choice for celebrating the season-but the sparks between her and their unsentimental yet irresistible uncle may be a gift neither was counting on…
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Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Geobiologist Hope Jahren has spent her life studying trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Lab Girl is her revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also a celebration of the lifelong curiosity, humility, and passion that drive every scientist. In these pages, Hope takes us back to her Minnesota childhood, where she spent hours in unfettered play in her father’s college laboratory. She tells us how she found a sanctuary in science, learning to perform lab work “with both the heart and the hands.” She introduces us to Bill, her brilliant, eccentric lab manager. And she extends the mantle of scientist to each one of her readers, inviting us to join her in observing and protecting our environment. Warm, luminous, compulsively readable, Lab Girl vividly demonstrates the mountains that we can move when love and work come together.
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Death Warmed Over by Kevin J. Anderson
Ever since the Big Uneasy unleashed vampires, werewolves, and other undead denizens on the world, it’s been hell being a detective—especially for zombie P.I. Dan Chambeaux. Taking on the creepiest of cases in the Unnatural Quarter with a human lawyer for a partner and a ghost for a girlfriend, Chambeaux redefines “dead on arrival.” But just because he was murdered doesn’t mean he’d leave his clients in the lurch. Besides, zombies are so good at lurching.
Now he’s back from the dead and back in business—with a caseload that’s downright unnatural. A resurrected mummy is suing the museum that put him on display. Two witches, victims of a curse gone terribly wrong, seek restitution from a publisher for not using “spell check” on its magical tomes. And he’s got to figure out a very personal question—Who killed him?
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It Came from the Sky by Chelsea Sedoti
This is the absolutely true account of how Lansburg, Pennsylvania was invaded by aliens and the weeks of chaos that followed. There were sightings of UFOs, close encounters, and even abductions. There were believers, Truth Seekers, and, above all, people who looked to the sky and hoped for more. Only…there were no aliens.
Gideon Hofstadt knows what really happened. When one of his science experiments went wrong, he and his older brother blamed the resulting explosion on extraterrestrial activity. And their lie was not only believed by their town—it was embraced. As the brothers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep up the ruse and avoid getting caught, the hoax flourishes. But Gideon’s obsession with their tale threatened his whole world. Can he find a way to banish the aliens before Lansburg, and his life, are changed forever?
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Night Shift by Stephen King
Never trust your heart to the New York Times bestselling master of suspense, Stephen King. Especially with an anthology that features the classic stories “Children of the Corn,” “The Lawnmower Man,” “Graveyard Shift,” “The Mangler,” and “Sometimes They Come Back”-which were all made into hit horror films.
From the depths of darkness, where hideous rats defend their empire, to dizzying heights, where a beautiful girl hangs by a hair above a hellish fate, this chilling collection of twenty short stories will plunge readers into the subterranean labyrinth of the most spine-tingling, eerie imagination of our time.
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Frontier Follies by Ree Drummond
In this relatable, charming book, Ree unveils real goings-on in the Drummond house and around the ranch. In stories brimming with the lively wit and humor found in her cookbooks and her bestselling love story, The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, Ree pulls back the curtain and shares her experiences with childbirth, wildlife, isolation, teenagers, in-laws, and a twenty-five-year marriage to a cowboy/rancher.
A celebration of family life, love, and (mostly) laughter, Frontier Follies is a keepsake to curl up with, have a good laugh, and remember all that’s wonderful (and funny) about family.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.
The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?
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Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance by Richard Powers
In the spring of 1914, renowned photographer August Sander took a photograph of three young men on their way to a country dance. This haunting image, capturing the last moments of innocence on the brink of World War I, provides the central focus of Powers’s brilliant and compelling novel. As the fate of the three farmers is chronicled, two contemporary stories unfold. The young narrator becomes obsessed with the photo, while Peter Mays, a computer writer in Boston, discovers he has a personal link with it. The three stories connect in a surprising way and provide the reader with a mystery that spans a century of brutality and progress.
Cujo by Stephen King
It happens innocently enough, but doesn’t it always. A big, friendly dog chases a rabbit into a hidden underground cave—and stirs a sleeping evil crueler than death itself. A terrified four-year-old boy sees his bedroom closet door swing open untouched by human hands, and screams at the unholy red eyes gleaming in the darkness. The little Maine town of Castle Rock is about to be invaded by the most hideous menace ever to savage the flesh and devour the mind.
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Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant-and that her lover is married-she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.
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The Museum of Whales You Will Never See by A. Kendra Greene
Iceland is home to only 330,000 people (roughly the population of Lexington, Kentucky) but more than 265 museums and public collections—nearly one for every ten people. They range from the intensely physical, like the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which collects the penises of every mammal known to exist in Iceland, to the vaporously metaphysical, like the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, which poses a particularly Icelandic problem: How to display what can’t be seen? In The Museum of Whales You Will Never See, A. Kendra Greene is our wise and whimsical guide through this cabinet of curiosities, showing us, in dreamlike anecdotes and more than thirty charming illustrations, how a seemingly random assortment of objects—a stuffed whooper swan, a rubber boot, a shard of obsidian, a chastity belt for rams—can map a people’s past and future, their fears and obsessions.
When I was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
“A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.” Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble—and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.
And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.
Yeah, it’s cool…until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be…somewhere they never should’ve been—where the people aren’t so friendly, and even less forgiving.
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A Promised Land by Barack Obama
In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.
Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.
Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.
This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.
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All Adults Here by Emma Straub
When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus accident in the center of town, it jostles loose a repressed memory from her young parenting days decades earlier. Suddenly, Astrid realizes she was not quite the parent she thought she’d been to her three, now-grown children. But to what consequence?Book | Large Print | Overdrive Ebook | Overdrive Audio
The Bear by Andrew Krivak
The Bear is a cautionary tale of human fragility, of love and loss; a stunning tribute to the beauty of nature’s dominion. In an Edenic future, a girl and her father live close to the land in the shadow of a lone mountain. They possess a few remnants of civilization: some books, a pane of glass, a set of flint and steel, a comb. The father teaches the girl how to fish and hunt, the secrets of the seasons and the stars. He is preparing her for an adulthood in harmony with nature, for they are the last of humankind.
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The Overstory by Richard Powers
National Book Award winner Richard Powers’s twelfth novel is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.
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You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria
After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez.
After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had.
With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.
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How to Raise an Elephant by Alexander McCall Smith
Precious Ramotswe loves her dependable old van. Yes, sometimes it takes a bit longer to get going now, and it has developed some quirks over the years, but it has always gotten the job done. This time, though, the world—and Charlie—may be asking too much of it, for when he borrows the beloved vehicle he returns it damaged. And, to make matters worse, the interior seems to have acquired an earthy smell that even Precious can’t identify.
But the olfactory issue is not the only mystery that needs solving. Mma Ramotswe is confronted by a distant relative, Blessing, who asks for help with an ailing cousin. The help requested is of a distinctly pecuniary nature, which makes both Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni and Mma Makutsi suspicious. And there is no peace at home, either, as the new neighbors are airing their marital grievances rather loudly. Still, Mma Ramotswe is confident that there are solutions to all of these difficulties, there to be discovered as long as she is led by kindness, grace, and logic, and can rely on the counsel of her friends and loved ones.
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The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.
But when the Eastwood sisters — James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna — join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote — and perhaps not even to live — the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive. There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.
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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” In 1999, Stephen King began to write about his craft — and his life. By midyear, a widely reported accident jeopardized the survival of both. And in his months of recovery, the link between writing and living became more crucial than ever. Rarely has a book on writing been so clear, so useful, and so revealing.
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Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh
Last year, Tom and Caroline Johnson chose to end their lives, one seemingly unable to live without the other. Their daughter, Anna, is struggling to come to terms with her parents’ deaths, unwilling to accept the verdict of suicide. Now with a baby herself, Anna feels her mother’s absence keenly and is determined to find out what really happened to her parents. But as she digs up the past, someone is trying to stop her. Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie….
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The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting
As long as people could remember, the stave church’s bells had rung over the isolated village of Butangen, Norway. Cast in memory of conjoined twins, the bells are said to ring on their own in times of danger. In 1879, young pastor Kai Schweigaard moves to the village, where young Astrid Hekne yearns for a modern life. She sees a way out on the arm of the new pastor, who needs a tie to the community to cull favor for his plan for the old stave church, with its pagan deity effigies and supernatural bells. When the pastor makes a deal that brings an outsider, a sophisticated German architect, into their world, the village and Astrid are caught between past and future, as dark forces come into play.
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Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.
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The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
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Everything Beautiful in its Time by Jenna Bush Hager
To the world, George and Barbara Bush were America’s powerful president and influential first lady. To Jenna Bush Hager, they were her beloved Gampy and Ganny, who taught her about respect, humility, kindness, and living a life of passion and meaning—timeless lessons that continue to guide her.
In Midland, Texas, Jenna’s maternal grandparents, Harold and Jenna Welch—Pa and Grammee—a home builder and homemaker, lived a quieter life outside the national spotlight. Yet their influence was no less indelible to their granddaughter. Throughout Jenna’s childhood and adolescence, the Welches taught her the name of every star in the sky, the way a dove uses her voice—teaching her to appreciate the beauty in the smallest things.
Now the mother of three young children, Jenna pays homage to her grandparents in this collection of heartwarming, intimate personal essays. Filled with love, laughter, and unforgettable stories, Everything Beautiful in Its Time captures the joyous and bittersweet nature of life itself. Jenna reflects on the single year in which she and her family lost Barbara and George H. W. Bush, and Jenna Welch. With the light, self-deprecating charm of the bestselling Sisters First—cowritten with her twin sister, Barbara—Jenna reveals how they navigated this difficult period with grace, faith, and nostalgic humor, uplifted by their grandparents’ sage advice and incomparable spirits
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Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
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