The Friends' BOOK CLUB
The Book Club meets on the third Friday of the month at 2:00 pm inThe Learning Center at the Library.
David Kelly, Co-ordinator
September 20, 2019
Desert Queen by Janet Wallach (1996)
To be presented by Don Markley. Here is the story of Gertrude Bell, who explored, mapped and excavated the Arab world throughout the early twentieth century. Recruited by British intelligence during World War I, Bell played a crucial role in obtaining the loyalty of Arab leaders, and her connections and information provided the brains to match T. E. Lawrence's brawn. After the war, she played a major role in creating the modern Middle East and was, at the time, considered the most powerful woman in the British Empire. In this masterful biography, Janet Wallach shows us the woman behind these achievements – a woman whose passion and defiant independence were at odds with the confined and custom-bound England she left behind. Too long eclipsed by Lawrence, Gertrude Bell emerges in her own right at last, as a vital player on the stage of modern history and as a woman whose life was both a heartbreaking story and a grand adventure.
October 20, 2019
The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd (2017)
To be presented October 20. In 1739, bright and determined sixteen-year-old Eliza Lucas is charged with keeping her family’s struggling plantations afloat, in her father’s absence. Learning of the high value of indigo, Eliza becomes determined to learn the secret of growing the enigmatic crop, believing it to be her family’s salvation, but everyone tells Eliza growing indigo in the region is impossible. Thwarted at nearly every turn, even by her own family, Eliza finds her only allies in an aging horticulturalist, an older and married gentleman lawyer, and a slave with whom she strikes a dangerous deal: teach her the intricate thousand-year-old secret process of making indigo dye and in return—against the laws of the day—she will teach the slaves to read. So develops an incredible story of romance, intrigue, hidden friendships, threats, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice, based on historical documents and Eliza Lucas’ own letters.
November 15, 2019
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (2012)
Winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize, an "elegant and haunting novel of war, art and memory" (The Independent) from the critically acclaimed author of The Gift of Rain.
Malaya, 1951. Yun Ling Teoh, the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of Cameron Highlands. There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the emperor of Japan. Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in memory of her sister, who died in the camp. Aritomo refuses but agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice "until the monsoon comes." Then she can design a garden for herself.
As the months pass, Yun Ling finds herself intimately drawn to the gardener and his art, while all around them a communist guerilla war rages. But the Garden of Evening Mists remains a place of mystery. Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan? And is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all?
December 20, 2019
Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Art Forger
by Ken Perenyi (2012)
Ten years ago, an FBI investigation in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York was about to expose a scandal in the art world that would have been front-page news in New York and London. After a trail of fake paintings of astonishing quality led federal agents to art dealers, renowned experts, and the major auction houses, the investigation inexplicably ended, despite an abundance of evidence collected. The case was closed and the FBI file was marked “exempt from public disclosure.” Now that the statute of limitations on these crimes has expired and the case appears hermetically sealed shut by the FBI, this book, Caveat Emptor, is Ken Perenyi’s confession. It is the story, in detail, of how he pulled it all off. Glamorous stories of art-world scandal have always captured the public imagination. However, not since Clifford Irving’s 1969 bestselling Fake has there been a story at all like this one. Caveat Emptoris unique in that it is the first and only book by and about America’s first and only great art forger. And unlike other forgers, Perenyi produced no paper trail, no fake provenance whatsoever; he let the paintings speak for themselves. And that they did, routinely mesmerizing the experts in mere seconds. In the tradition of Frank Abagnale’s Catch Me If You Can, and certain to be a bombshell for the major international auction houses and galleries, here is the story of America’s greatest art forger.
January 17, 2020
It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1935)
“The novel that foreshadowed Donald Trump’s authoritarian appeal.” — Salon
It Can’t Happen Here is the only one of Sinclair Lewis’s later novels to match the power of Main Street, Babbitt and Arrowsmith. A cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. Written during the Great Depression, when the country was largely oblivious to Hitler’s aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime and a liberal press.
February 14, 2020
The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats by Daniel Stone (2018)
In the nineteenth century, American meals were about subsistence, not enjoyment. But as a new century approached, appetites broadened, and David Fairchild, a young botanist with an insatiable lust to explore and experience the world, set out in search of foods that would enrich the American farmer and enchant the American eater.
Kale from Croatia, mangoes from India, and hops from Bavaria. Peaches from China, avocados from Chile, and pomegranates from Malta. Fairchild’s finds weren’t just limited to food: From Egypt he sent back a variety of cotton that revolutionized an industry, and via Japan he introduced the cherry blossom tree, forever brightening America’s capital. Along the way, he was arrested, caught diseases, and bargained with island tribes. But his culinary ambition came during a formative era, and through him, America transformed into the most diverse food system ever created.
March 20, 2020
The Elephant's Journey by Jose Saramago (2010)
In 1551, King João III of Portugal gave Archduke Maximilian an unusual wedding present: an elephant named Solomon. In José Saramago's remarkable and imaginative retelling, Solomon and his keeper, Subhro, begin in dismal conditions, forgotten in a corner of the palace grounds. When it occurs to the king and queen that an elephant would be an appropriate wedding gift, everyone rushes to get them ready: Subhro is given two new suits of clothes and Solomon a long overdue scrub. Accompanied by the Archduke, his new wife, and the royal guard, these unlikely heroes traverse a continent riven by the Reformation and civil wars, witnessed along the way by scholars, historians, and wide-eyed ordinary people as they make their way through the storied cities of northern Italy; they brave the Alps and the terrifying Isarco and Brenner Passes; across the Mediterranean Sea and up the Inn River; and at last, toward their grand entry into the imperial city.
April 17, 2020
Becoming by Michelle Obama (2018)
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.
May 15, 2020
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westhover (2018)
Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
June 19, 2020
The Library Book by Susan Orlean (2018)
On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?
Last Season We Read:
June 21, 2019
DUBLINERS by James Joyce (1914)
For a summary of the discussion, click here.
May 17, 2019
ELEANOR OLIPHONT is COMPLETELY FINE
by Gail Honeyman, 317 pages (2017)
For a summary of the discussion, click here.
April 19, 2019
WOMAN in the WINDOW by A. J. Finn, 448 pages (2018)
For a summary of the discussion, click here.
March 15, 2019
ASTRO-PHYSICS for PEOPLE in a HURRY
February 15, 2019
January 18, 2019
December 20, 2018
November 16, 2018
October 19, 2018
September 21, 2018