September 15, 2011

September 2011

After a short hiatus during the summer, we had a full house for our first meeting in the fall.  Jane brought her life-long friend Susie, whose uncle was the principal of the school that Jeannette Walls author of The Glass Castle went to.  Susie herself grew up 40 miles away from Welch, West Virginia.  I wish we had more time to talk about growing up there, but we had so much to cover - what with our extensive reading lists and all!

Jane kicked off the meeting by showing off her new e-reader.  Possible titles:  NaNook of the North, Nook and Granny, Nooked on a Feeling, and Nook Gingrich.  Please send your suggestions.

Here are our books;  several of them kept popping up so they’re listed on their first mention:

Kate Atkinson books
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
The Paris Wife – Paula McLain
Lark and Termite – Jayne Anne Phillips
Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
Home – Marilynne Robinson
The Greater Journey – David McCullough
Catcher Caught – Sarah Collins Honenberger
The Cleveland Creep – Les Roberts
The King’s Speech – Mark Logue
Star Island – Carl Hiaasen
The God of Animals – Aryn Kyle
Stealing Rembrandts – Anthony Amore
Folly Beach – Dorothea Benton Frank
The one Mom couldn’t remember is Rock Bottom – Erin Brockovich
At Home A Short History of Private Life – Bill Bryson
The Widower’s Tale – Julia Glass
Three Junes – Julia Glass
A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
Hadley – Alice Hunt Sokoloff
Midnight in Paris the movie
The Butterfly’s Daughter – Mary Alice Monroe
Smokin’ Seventeen – Janet Evanovich
An Object of Beauty – Steve Martin
Kim -  Rudyard Kipling
This Wheel’s on Fire – Levon Helm
Courage and Consequence – Karl Rove
The Gods of Greenwich – Norb Vonnegut
Exorcising Hitler – Fredrick Taylor
The History of Germany – Eleanor Turk
The Big Scrum – John Miller
The Living Great Lakes – Jerry Dennis
Waterlife the movie
The Edmund Fitzgerald went down November 10, 1975 off Whitefish Point, Michigan.
George Washington – Willard Sterne Randall
Scarlett – Alexandria Ripley
South of Superior – Ellen Airgood
Second Sight – Amanda Quick
Half Broke Horses – Jeannette Walls
How to be Good – Nick Hornby
The Piano Teacher – Janice Y.K. Lee
The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio – Terry Ryan
Neither Here Nor There – Bill Bryson
The Pleasure of My Company – Steve Martin
City of Falling Angels – John Berendt
How the Hippies Saved Physics – David Kaiser
How the Irish Saved Civilization – Thomas Cahill
The Tao of Physics – Fritjof Capra
Cosmic Trigger – Robert Anton Wilson
Broken – Susan Bigelow
History of Jazz – Ted Gioia
Visit Ted Gioia’s Nobel Prize in Literature from an Alternative Universe at
REAMDE – Neal Stephenson

Mary Lou has read:

David Baldacci, The Camel Club (2005),. Stone Cold (2007), Divine Justice (2008).  Oliver Stone lives in a cottage in a NW Washington DC cemetery that he maintains.  He also has a tent in Lafayette Park across from the White House, where he holds a sign reading “I WANT THE TRUTH.”  He and several very colorful friends, also social misfits, form the Camel Club, observers of official Washington and seekers of truth.  Over the years Secret Service agent Alex Ford has become his friend as well.  The first novel introduces us to the mysteries of Oliver’s past as old enemies, now risen to high government office, are revealed in devious and murderous plots against other political bigwigs.  In a highly suspenseful tale with a cleverly twisty plot, Oliver and his friends save much more than just the day.  In Stone Cold, con artist Annabelle Conroy seeks Camel Club help to escape from the consequences of a successful long con she ran against an Atlantic City casino owner and gangster.  Enemies from Oliver’s past, still powerful government officials, remain the villains of the tale.  In Divine Justice, Oliver must flee the area.  He winds up in the mysteriously prosperous small mining town of Divine in southwest Virginia, where he saves several lives and uncovers several evils.    His friends track him down and attempt to assist rescue him in escaping his CIA pursuers.  Complications ensue, of course, in a delightfully suspenseful plot.  These novels will delight anyone who believes the worst of Washington politicians and intelligence agencies
Alexander McCall Smith, At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances  (2003).  This is the third volume of the trilogy featuring Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Ingelfeld.  He is more xenophobic than ever as he ventures to Cambridge on sabbatical, where he has many opportunities to ponder the superiority of German Academia and the lack of humor among the British.  Not long after his return, he travels to Colombia to be honored as Distinguished Corresponding Fellow of the Academy of Letters.  While in Colombia, he is invited to The Villa of Reduced Circumstances, where he learns much about the local culture of revolutionary politics. 

Pat Conroy, The Water is Wide (1972); Beach Music (1995); South of Broad (2009).  Thanks to Omni Book Club for reminding me of this fine author.  I have not yet reread Prince of Tides, but I intend to.  The Water is Wide is a very early work, based on Conroy’s experiences as a young man teaching poor Black children in a primitive school on a South Carolina island.  As you teachers can imagine, any successes he manages are despite the efforts of the Superintendent and other school administrators.  This is an inspiring book and a rollicking good story that will have you cheering for the young teacher and his students.  Beach Music is a more typical Conroy novel of self-discovery.  Jack McCall takes his young daughter and escapes to Rome from family tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina.  Eventually, his family lures him back, where his daughter learns to know her family and Jack learns of the reasons for his wife’s suicide.  South of Broad is also set in Charleston and narrated by Leopold Bloom King.  His mother is a Joyce scholar who annually celebrates Bloomsday.  With this as a starting point, the story of family relationships is sure to be bizarre.  The resolution comes with the arrival of a devastating hurricane in Charleston.

Janis Owens, The Cracker Kitchen (2009); introduction by Pat Conroy.  This came up when I searched my favorite book source (Better World Books) for Conroy. Yes, it has recipes, but it’s really a series of essays on Southern family life and the culture of crackers, rednecks and hillbillies.  “Chapter 1:  Crosses, Cakes, and Storytelling over Coffins – It Must be Spring.”  It has two recipes for sweet tea, plus everything else you would expect to find, but it’s the essays that are most entertaining.

Louise Dickinson Rich, We Took to the Woods (1942, 1970).  My friend in western Maine sent this to me.  It is set near her home.  To the amazement of their family and friends, Louise and her husband Ralph live for a number of Depression years in a remote cabin in the Maine woods, along the Rapid River, in the midst of a series of dams and lakes that flow eventually into the Androscoggin.  Actually, there are two dwellings, a cozy winter cabin sheltered in the woods and a summer house on the bluff overlooking the river.  The book is structured as a series of answers to dumb questions her visitors have asked her over the years, beginning with “Why Don’t You Write a Book?” and including “But How Do You Make a Living?”  “But You Don’t Live Here All Year Round!”   “Isn’t Housekeeping Difficult?”  “Aren’t the Children a Problem?” and my personal favorite of the dumb questions, “What Do You Do with Your Spare Time?”  This is a delightful book, full of funny episodes and vivid descriptions and there even are a few pictures of the people and places described. 

Howard Norman, My Famous Evening (2004).  I thought Howard Norman was a Canadian author because his novels are set in Ontario and the Maritimes.  Actually, he lives in Vermont but he has traveled extensively in eastern Canada and lived a number of summers in Nova Scotia.  This book is a collection of stories he gathered there from old-timers.  The title tale is narrated by a housewife who flees her abusive husband and secretly journeys from Halifax to New York to hear Joseph Conrad.  Another section presents legends of Glooskap, a folk hero of Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaq tribes.  Taken together, this collection presents an intriguing view of Nova Scotia’s people and culture. 

Elizabeth McCracken, Niagara Falls All Over Again (2001).  A few days before our annual trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake and Stratford, I stopped by the Goodwill to stock up on disposable books.  How could I resist this title?  Mose Sharp can’t wait to escape his home town, a whistle stop just west of Des Moines and he sets off for a Vaudeville career.  Soon he partners with comedian Rocky Carter and pulls a daredevil stunt at Niagara Falls, beginning a 30+ year partnership that takes them to Hollywood.  Complications and comedy ensue, but the novel has a serious streak as well, as Mose and Rocky struggle variously with the challenges of success and failure.

Maeve Haran, The Lady and the Poet (2009).  Thanks to Omni for suggesting this one.  It is a fictionalized account of the life of Anne More, who went against family and tradition to become the wife of the poet John Donne.  Some of Donne’s better known poems are woven into the plot, a bit stiffly at times, but Anne is a delightfully spirited character.  The novel presents a vivid picture of Elizabethan court intrigues.

Kristin Hannah, Winter Garden (2010).  Meredith and Nina Whitson grow up in a Washington State apple orchard, daughters of the cold and withdrawn Anya, who tells them a Russian fairy tale.  When young Meredith dramatizes the tale as a Christmas pageant, Anya shocks her daughters by stopping the presentation.  Thirty years later, Meredith and Nina return home to nurse their ailing father.  They see that Anya has developed the peculiar habit of sitting barefoot in her nightgown in her winter garden at night in the snow.  Eventually their father orders their mother to tell the daughters the traumatic story of her early life, the basis of the “fairy tale.”  This is a vivid exploration of the relationships between parents and children, mothers and daughters, past and present. 

James Patterson and Andrew Cross, Jester (2003).  This Medieval adventure novel is set in Southern France during the years of the Crusades.  Hugh DeLuc, a young innkeeper, leaves his wife and marches off toward the Holy Land.  After a series of disillusioning experiences, he returns home to find his inn destroyed and his wife captured.  Sprinkled with fair maidens, holy relics, oppressive nobles and foul dungeons, this is an intricate and fast-paced tale.   Hugh’s tricks and stratagems as a Jester are the key to his imaginative triumphs against the odds.

Dwight reports:

The songwriter Josh Ritter has written a rather endearing little novel called BRIGHT'S PASSAGE.  You may like it...

Our sister group in Oklahoma discussed:

Lawton Book Bunch
August 11, 2011

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough
King’s Speech by Mark Logue
Perfect Summer, England 1911, Just Before the Storm by Juliet Nicholson
Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Every Bitter Thing by Hardy Jones
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
The Burden of Southern History and The Strange Career of Jim Crowe by C. Vann Woodward
Jane Austen: Her Life by Park Honan
Jane Austen’s Letters by Jane Austin
A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother by Janny Scott
Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings by Amy Kelly


Midnight in Paris
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo & Insomnia (discussion about movies made in a different language and then being remade in English)
Moliere (French2007)
Lion in Winter (1. O’Toole and Hepburn 2. Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close)
Beckett (O’Toole and Burton)


Taming of the Shrew (1. Texas Shakespeare Festival; 2. American Players Theatre at Spring Green, Wisconsin)
Masterpieces: A Play in Two Acts (about the Brontes) by Arthur Bicknell

Afghanistan: Its Complexities and Relevance: 2011-2012 Festival Year (Cameron University)

Panel to discuss Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini will be at the CU Library Tuesday August 30 at 3:30 p.m.

Khalid Hosseini will speak at the CU Theatre Tuesday August 30 at 7:30.  Tickets are required: or call 581-2211

*Edit note:  We'd like to hear how the panel and speech by Khalid Hosseini went.

Lawton Book Bunch
September 8, 2011

Africa: Altered States, Ordinary People by Richard Dowden
When the Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin
The White Nile and The Blue Nile by Alan Moorehead
The Man Who Would Be King (short story) by Rudyard Kipling
Lais of Marie de France by Marie de France
Arthurian legends by Chretien Troyes
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
In the Garden of the Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by
Erik Larson
Tony Hillerman mysteries
Sapelo Island’s Hog Hammock by Michelle Nicole Johnson
The Slave Ship Clothida and the Making of an African Town, U.S.A. by Natalie S. Robertson
Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America by Allen Guelzo
Celia, a Slave by Melton McLaurin
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
Sugar of the Crop: My Journey to Find the Children of Slaves by Sana Butler


The Man Who Would be King
The Help
Daughters of the Dust

Please reserve Wednesday, November 9 for a holiday party at Jane’s house.  The menu will be an inspiration from The Help.  Details to follow.

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