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 August 27th if you’d like to join us.
Here’s some of the books we discussed.
The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard
For fifteen years August Sitwell has worked for the Barclays, a well-to-do white family who plucked him from an orphan asylum and gave him a job. The groundskeeper is part of the household’s all-black staff, along with “Miss Mamie,” the talented cook, pretty new maid Jennie Williams, and three young kitchen apprentices—the latest orphan boys Mr. Barclay has taken in to “civilize” boys like August.
But the Barclays fortunes have fallen, and their money is almost gone. When a prospective business associate proposes selling Miss Mamie’s delicious rib sauce to local markets under the brand name “The Rib King”—using a caricature of a wildly grinning August on the label—Mr. Barclay, desperate for cash, agrees. Yet neither Miss Mamie nor August will see a dime. Humiliated, August grows increasingly distraught, his anger building to a rage that explodes in shocking tragedy.
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The Women’s March by Jennifer Chiaverini
Alice Paul returns to New Jersey after several years on the front lines of the suffrage movement in Great Britain. Weakened from imprisonment and hunger strikes, she is nevertheless determined to invigorate the stagnant suffrage movement in her homeland with magnificent procession through Washington, DC.
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Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
Dr. Trisha Raje is San Francisco’s most acclaimed neurosurgeon. But that’s not enough for the Rajes, her influential immigrant family who’s achieved power by making its own non-negotiable rules: Never trust an outsider. Never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations. And never, ever, defy your family. Trisha is guilty of breaking all three rules. But now she has a chance to redeem herself. So long as she doesn’t repeat old mistakes.
Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine has known people like Trisha before, people who judge him by his rough beginnings and place pedigree above character. He needs the lucrative job the Rajes offer, but he values his pride too much to indulge Trisha’s arrogance. And then he discovers that she’s the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.
As the two clash, their assumptions crumble like the spun sugar on one of DJ’s stunning desserts. But before a future can be savored there’s a past to be reckoned with.
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Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev
Chef Ashna Raje desperately needs a new strategy. How else can she save her beloved restaurant and prove to her estranged, overachieving mother that she isn’t a complete screw up? When she’s asked to join the cast of Cooking with the Stars, the latest hit reality show teaming chefs with celebrities, it seems like just the leap of faith she needs to put her restaurant back on the map. She’s a chef, what’s the worst that could happe? Rico Silva, that’s what.
Being paired with a celebrity who was her first love, the man who ghosted her at the worst possible time in her life, only proves what Ashna has always believed: leaps of faith are a recipe for disaster.
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Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev
Yash Raje, California’s first Indian-American gubernatorial candidate, has always known exactly what he wants—and how to use his privileged background to get it. He attributes his success to a simple mantra: control your feelings and you can control the world. But when a hate crime at a rally critically injures his friend, Yash’s easy life suddenly feels like a lie, his control an illusion. When he tries to get back on the campaign trail, he blacks out with panic.
Desperate to keep Yash’s condition from leaking to the media, his family turns to the one person they trust—his sister’s best friend, India Dashwood, California’s foremost stress management coach. Raised by a family of yoga teachers, India has helped San Francisco’s high strung overachievers for a decade without so much as altering her breath. But this man—with his boundless ambition, simmering intensity, and absolute faith in his political beliefs—is like no other.
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Three Ordinary Girls by Tim Brady
May 10, 1940. The Netherlands was swarming with Third Reich troops. In seven days it’s entirely occupied by Nazi Germany. Joining a small resistance cell in the Dutch city of Haarlem were three teenage girls: Hannie Schaft, and sisters Truus and Freddie Oversteegen who would soon band together to form a singular female underground squad.
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One Great Lie by Deb Caletti
When Charlotte wins a scholarship to a writing workshop in Venice with the charismatic and brilliant Luca Bruni, it’s a dream come true. Writing is her passion, she loves Bruni’s books, and going to that romantic and magical sinking city gives her the chance to solve a long-time family mystery about a Venetian poet deep in their lineage, Isabella Di Angelo, who just might be the real author of a very famous poem.
Bruni’s villa on the eerie island of La Calamita is extravagant—lush beyond belief, and the other students are both inspiring and intimidating. Venice itself is beautiful, charming, and seductive, but so is Luca Bruni. As his behavior becomes increasingly unnerving, and as Charlotte begins to unearth the long-lost work of Isabella with the help of sweet, smart Italian Dante, other things begin to rise, too—secrets about the past, and secrets about the present.
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The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
Thomas Wazhashk is the night watchman at the jewel bearing plant, the first factory located near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. He is also a Chippewa Council member who is trying to understand the consequences of a new “emancipation” bill on its way to the floor of the United States Congress. It is 1953 and he and the other council members know the bill isn’t about freedom; Congress is fed up with Indians. The bill is a “termination” that threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land and their very identity. How can the government abandon treaties made in good faith with Native Americans “for as long as the grasses shall grow, and the rivers run”?
Since graduating high school, Pixie Paranteau has insisted that everyone call her Patrice. Unlike most of the girls on the reservation, Patrice, the class valedictorian, has no desire to wear herself down with a husband and kids. She makes jewel bearings at the plant, a job that barely pays her enough to support her mother and brother. Patrice’s shameful alcoholic father returns home sporadically to terrorize his wife and children and bully her for money. But Patrice needs every penny to follow her beloved older sister, Vera, who moved to the big city of Minneapolis. Vera may have disappeared; she hasn’t been in touch in months, and is rumored to have had a baby. Determined to find Vera and her child, Patrice makes a fateful trip to Minnesota that introduces her to unexpected forms of exploitation and violence, and endangers her life.
Thomas and Patrice live in this impoverished reservation community along with young Chippewa boxer Wood Mountain and his mother Juggie Blue, her niece and Patrice’s best friend Valentine, and Stack Barnes, the white high school math teacher and boxing coach who is hopelessly in love with Patrice.
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The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.
The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakeable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.
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The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
When Myriam decides to return to work as a lawyer after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their son and daughter. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family’s chic Paris apartment, stays late without complaint, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on one another, jealousy, resentment, and suspicions mount, shattering the idyllic tableau.
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The Royals Next Door by Karina Halle
Piper Evans: elementary school teacher by day—avid romance reader and anonymous podcaster by night. She has a quiet, reclusive life, taking care of her mother, who lives with mental illness, avoiding her regrettable ex, who bartends in town, and trying to make inroads in the tight-knit island community that still sees her, five years in, as an outsider.
And she’s happy with how things are—really—until British royals rent the property next to hers and their brooding bodyguard decides she’s a security threat. Piper quickly realizes that one person’s fairy tale is an ordinary woman’s nightmare as a media frenzy takes over the island and each run-in with Harrison Cole is hotter and more confusing than the last. But beneath Harrison’s no-nonsense exterior lies a soft heart, one that could tempt a woman who’s sworn off attachments into believing in white knights.
But when Piper finds herself smack in the middle of a royal scandal that rocks the island she’ll need more than Harrison’s strong arms to shield her—she’ll have to do a little rescuing herself. With careers, hearts, and friendships on the line, Piper and Harrison will have to decide what they’re willing to give up for a chance at their own happily ever after.
In Pieces by Sally Field
One of the most celebrated, beloved, and enduring actors of our time, Sally Field has an infectious charm that has captivated the nation for more than five decades, beginning with her first TV role at the age of seventeen. From Gidget’s sweet-faced “girl next door” to the dazzling complexity of Sybil to the Academy Award-worthy ferocity and depth of Norma Rae and Mary Todd Lincoln, Field has stunned audiences time and time again with her artistic range and emotional acuity. Yet there is one character who always remained hidden: the shy and anxious little girl within.
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A Fine Romance by Candice Bergen
In her decidedly nontraditional marriage to the insatiably curious Louis, Bergen takes readers on world travels to the sets where each made films. Pregnant with Chloe at age thirty-nine, this mature primigravida also recounts a journey through motherhood that includes plundering the Warner Bros. costume closets for Halloween getups and never leaving her ever-expanding menagerie out of the fun. She offers priceless, behind-the-scenes looks at Murphy Brown, from caterwauling with Aretha Franklin to the surreal experience of becoming headline news when Dan Quayle took exception to her character becoming a single mother. Bergen tackles familiar rites of passage with moving honesty: the rigors of caring for a spouse in his final illness, getting older, and falling in love again after she was tricked into a blind date.
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Then Again by Diane Keaton
In Diane Keaton’s unforgettable memoir about her mother and herself you will meet the woman known to tens of millions as Annie Hall, but you will also meet, and fall in love with, her mother, the loving, complicated, always-thinking Dorothy Hall. To write about herself, Diane realized she had to write about her mother, too, and how their bond came to define both their lives. In a remarkable act of creation, Diane not only reveals herself to us, she also lets us meet in intimate detail her mother. Over the course of her life, Dorothy kept eighty-five journals—literally thousands of pages—in which she wrote about her marriage, her children, and, most probingly, herself. Dorothy also recorded memorable stories about Diane’s grandparents. Diane has sorted through these pages to paint an unflinching portrait of her mother—a woman restless with intellectual and creative energy, struggling to find an outlet for her talents—as well as her entire family, recounting a story that spans four generations and nearly a hundred years.
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Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
Li Lan, the daughter of a respectable Chinese family in colonial Malaysia, hopes for a favorable marriage, but her father has lost his fortune, and she has few suitors. Instead, the wealthy Lim family urges her to become a “ghost bride” for their son, who has recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at what price?
Night after night, Li Lan is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, where she must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets-and the truth about her own family.
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Unscientific America by Chris Mooney
In his famous 1959 Rede lecture at Cambridge University, the scientifically-trained novelist C.P. Snow described science and the humanities as “two cultures,” separated by a “gulf of mutual incomprehension.” And the humanists had all the cultural power–the low prestige of science, Snow argued, left Western leaders too little educated in scientific subjects that were increasingly central to world problems: the elementary physics behind nuclear weapons, for instance, or the basics of plant science needed to feed the world’s growing population.
Now, Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum, a journalist-scientist team, offer an updated “two cultures” polemic for America in the 21st century. Just as in Snow’s time, some of our gravest challenges–climate change, the energy crisis, national economic competitiveness–and gravest threats–global pandemics, nuclear proliferation–have fundamentally scientific underpinnings. Yet we still live in a culture that rarely takes science seriously or has it on the radar.
Space Atlas by James Trefil
In this guided tour of our planetary neighborhood, the Milky Way and other galaxies, and beyond, detailed maps and fascinating imagery from recent space missions partner with clear, authoritative scientific information. Starting with the sun and moving outward into space, acclaimed science writer and physicist James Trefil illuminates each planet, the most important moons, significant asteroids, and other objects in our solar system. Looking beyond, he explains what we know about the Milky Way and other galaxies–and how we know it, with clear explanations of the basics of astrophysics, including dark matter and gravitational waves. For this new edition, and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his moonwalk, astronaut and American hero Buzz Aldrin offers a new special section on Earth’s moon and its essential role in space exploration past and future.
Dead by Morning by Dorothy Simpson
A snowstorm in a quiet English village ends in death in this “skillfully plotted” mystery starring the beloved Detective Inspector Thanet (Publishers Weekly). Over the last year, Superintendent Draco has turned the little police station at Sturrenden upside down. A hard-driving, fiery Welshman, he has breathed new life into a stagnant police force, and Det. Inspector Luke Thanet has been forced to admit that even if he’s difficult to work with, Draco gets results. But when a body is found in the little village of Sutton-in-the-Weald the morning after a heavy snowstorm, Draco insists on overseeing the investigation-which means finding the killer won’t be Thanet’s only problem. Leo Martindale returned to Sutton-in-the-Weald after twenty years to claim his inheritance. Two days later, he’s dead. Was the death an accident, a hit and run caused by icy roads-or was it murder? Thanet will have to ignore his boss breathing down his neck to find out the truth.
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Panda of Death by Betty Webb
California zookeeper Theodora Bentley is now happily married to Sheriff Joe Rejas. The Gunn Zoo is celebrating the arrival of Poonya, an adorable red panda, who forms a strong bond with Teddy. All appears fairytale blissful in the small Monterey Bay village of Gunn Landing until Teddy’s mother-in-law, mystery writer Colleen Rejas, has discovered through DNA testing that Joe has sired a son he knew nothing about. Dylan Coyle, 18, arrives to meet his biological family… and then is arrested for murder.
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Isn’t it Bromatic by Lyssa Kay Adams
Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared, she escaped danger the only way she knew how: She married her childhood friend, Vladimir, and moved to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville. Vlad, aka the Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more. He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance—both on and off the page.
The bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love—and this time they’re not operating solo. They join forces with Vlad’s neighbors, a group of meddling widows who call themselves the Loners. But just when things finally look promising, Elena’s past life intrudes and their happily ever after is cast into doubt.
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Murder Most Foul by Donna Andrews
Meg Langslow’s in for a busy summer. Her husband is directing a production of Macbeth , and most of the cast and crew are occupying spare bedrooms in their house. She also has to keep an eye on Camp Birnam, where a group of medieval reenactors are commemorating the real-life Macbeth by setting up what they fondly believe is an authentic medieval Scottish military camp.
And then there’s Damien Goodwin, a filmmaker who has been hanging around, trying to document the production. When Goodwin hosts a showing of some of the footage he’s taken, he manages to embarrass or offend just about everyone. The next morning Meg isn’t exactly surprised to find that someone has murdered him. But who?
The Nix by Nathan Hill
It’s 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson—college professor, stalled writer—has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn’t seen her in decades, not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she’s re-appeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the internet, and inflames a politically divided country. The media paints Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain: she’s facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel’s help.
To save her, Samuel will have to embark on his own journey, uncovering long-buried secrets about the woman he thought he knew, secrets that stretch across generations and have their origin all the way back in Norway, home of the mysterious Nix. As he does so, Samuel will confront not only Faye’s losses but also his own lost love, and will relearn everything he thought he knew about his mother, and himself.
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A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
London, 1887. After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.
But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered—leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth.
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The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
Five years. That’s how long Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have lived on the road in an old school bus, criss-crossing the nation.
It’s also how long ago Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash. Coyote hasn’t been home in all that time, but when she learns that the park in her old neighborhood is being demolished—the very same park where she, her mom, and her sisters buried a treasured memory box—she devises an elaborate plan to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles back to Washington state in four days…without him realizing it.
Along the way, they’ll pick up a strange crew of misfit travelers. Lester has a lady love to meet. Salvador and his mom are looking to start over. Val needs a safe place to be herself. And then there’s Gladys… Over the course of thousands of miles, Coyote will learn that going home can sometimes be the hardest journey of all…but that with friends by her side, she just might be able to turn her “once upon a time” into a “happily ever after.”
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Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
Why do our headaches persist after we take a one-cent aspirin but disappear when we take a fifty-cent aspirin? Why do we splurge on a lavish meal but cut coupons to save twenty-five cents on a can of soup? When it comes to making decisions in our lives, we think we’re making smart, rational choices. But are we?
In this newly revised and expanded edition of the groundbreaking New York Times bestseller, Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They’re systematic and predictable—making us predictably irrational.
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Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs
Hospitalized with a freak case of tropical pneumonia and ashamed of a middle-aged body best described as “a python that swallowed a goat,” A.J. Jacobs felt compelled to change his ways and get healthy. To accomplish this epic task, he consulted an army of experts and subjected himself to dozens of different workouts, diets, and devices-from Finger Fitness to Strollercize sessions, veganism to extreme chewing.
The story of his transformation is not only brilliantly entertaining, but it just may be the healthiest book ever written. It will make you laugh until your sides split and endorphins flood your bloodstream. It will move you emotionally and get you moving physically in surprising ways. It will serve you up today’s best health advice. And it will give you occasion to reflect on the body’s many mysteries and the ultimate pursuit of health: a well-lived life.
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Perfect Ruin by Shanora Williams
A brutal tragedy ended Ivy Hill’s happy family and childhood. Now in her twenties and severely troubled, she barely has a life—or much to live for. Until the day she discovers the name of the woman who destroyed her world: Lola Maxwell—the mega-wealthy socialite with a heart, Miami’s beloved “first lady” of charity. Accomplished, gorgeous, and oh-so-caring, Lola has the best of everything—and doesn’t deserve any of it. So it’s only right that Ivy take it all away . . .
Little by little, Ivy infiltrates Lola’s elite circle, becomes her new best friend—and plays Lola’s envious acquaintances and hangers-on against her. But seducing Lola’s handsome, devoted surgeon husband turns into a passionate dream Ivy suddenly can’t control. And soon, an insidious someone will twist Ivy’s revenge into a nightmare of deception, secrets, and betrayal that Ivy may not wake up from.
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Once a Laird by Mary Jo Putney
After the death of his fiancée, Kai Ramsey left Scotland to roam distant lands. He has searched ancient ruins, collected priceless antiquities, and escaped certain death after being imprisoned as a spy during the Napoleonic War. Ramsay has lived on the edge of danger for years—but everything changes the day a letter arrives for him from Scotland.
Signy Matheson has dedicated her life to the people of Scotland’s remote Thorsay Islands. With a fiery spirit and agile mind, she is a faithful ally to the aging laird. But now their leader is near death, and Signy must summon his successor at once. It’s time for Kai Ramsey to come home.
When Ramsay returns to Thorsay, he’s shocked to find that Signy has blossomed into an alluring beauty, and a force to be reckoned with. Their complicated past interferes with their unspoken desire as they work together for their people. Until a wild storm sparks first passion, then unexpected danger when a treasure trove left by their ancestors comes to light.
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Just Eat by Barry Estabrook
Over the course of three years, Estabrook tried the regimens behind the most popular diets of the past forty years—from paleo, keto, gluten-free, and veganism to the Master Cleanse, Whole30, Atkins, Weight Watchers—examining the people, claims, and science behind the fads, all while recording his mental and physical experience of following each one. Along the way, he discovered that all the branded programs are derived from just three diets. There are effective, scientifically valid takeaways to be cherry-picked . . . and the rest is just marketing. Perhaps most alarming, Estabrook uncovered how short-term weight loss can do long-term health damage that may go undetected for years. Estabrook contextualizes his reporting with an analysis of our culture’s bizarre dieting history, dating back to the late 1800s, to create a thorough—and thoroughly entertaining—look at what specific diets do to our bodies, why some are more effective than others, and why our relationship with food is so fraught.