Love to read? Enjoy discussions of books with friends? Join the First Thursday Book Club. Library book discussions are held on the first Thursday of the month at 7:30 pm. For further information, please call the Library at 201-387-4040 ext. 2832 or email the Reference Desk. Or come to the Reference Desk to pick up a copy of the current book.
The book for Thursday, April 2nd is Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang (NF)
Born in 1835 to a prominent Manchu family, Cixi was chosen in 1852 by the young Chinese Emperor Xianfeng as one of his concubines. Literate, politically aware, and graceful rather than beautiful, Cixi was not Xianfeng’s favorite, but she delivered his firstborn son in 1856. When the emperor died in 1861, he bequeathed his title to this son, with regents to oversee his reign. Cixi did not trust these men to competently rule China, so she conspired with Empress Zhen, her close friend and the deceased emperor’s first wife, to orchestrate a coup.
Future Titles Include:
May 7th Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Winner, 2018 Pulitzer Prize. Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.
June 4th Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb (NF)
One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but. As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients’ lives, she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.
Previous Titles Read Include:
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family—like thousands of other Japanese Americans—are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.
March 1st. Proof of Life by J.A. Jance
Before he retired, J. P. Beaumont had looked forward to having his days all to himself. But too much free time doesn’t suit a man used to brushing close to danger. When his longtime nemesis, retired Seattle crime reporter Maxwell Cole, dies in what’s officially deemed to be an accidental fire, Beau is astonished to be dragged into the investigation at the request of none other than the deceased victim himself. In the process Beau learns that just because a long-ago case was solved doesn’t mean it’s over. Caught up in a situation where old actions and grudges can hold dangerous consequences in the present, Beau is forced to operate outside the familiar world of law enforcement. While seeking justice for his frenemy and healing for a long fractured family, he comes face to face with an implacable enemy who has spent decades hiding in plain sight.
April 5th. Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace by Jennifer Chiaverini
The only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the most brilliant, revered, and scandalous of the Romantic poets, Ada was destined for fame long before her birth. Estranged from Ada’s father, who was infamously “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” Ada’s mathematician mother is determined to save her only child from her perilous Byron heritage. When Ada is introduced into London society as a highly eligible young heiress, she at last discovers the intellectual and social circles she has craved all her life. Little does she realize that her delightful new friendship with inventor Charles Babbage — brilliant, charming, and occasionally curmudgeonly — will shape her destiny.
May 3rd. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
This is Kazuo Ishiguro’s profoundly compelling portrait of Stevens, the perfect butler, and of his fading, insular world in post-World War II England. Stevens, at the end of three decades of service at Darlington Hall, spending a day on a country drive, embarks as well on a journey through the past in an effort to reassure himself that he has served humanity by serving the “great gentleman,” Lord Darlington. But lurking in his memory are doubts about the true nature of Lord Darlington’s “greatness,” and much graver doubts about the nature of his own life.
Make your Bed by William McRaven
August 2nd. Still Life by Louise Penny
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.
September 6th. A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes by Adam Rutherford
In our unique genomes, every one of us carries the story of our species—births, deaths, disease, war, famine, migration, and a lot of sex. But those stories have always been locked away—until now. Who are our ancestors? Where did they come from? Geneticists have suddenly become historians, and the hard evidence in our DNA has blown the lid off what we thought we knew. Acclaimed science writer Adam Rutherford explains exactly how genomics is completely rewriting the human story—from 100,000 years ago to the present.
October 4th. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.
In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…
November 1st is Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.
In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed—many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating.
December 6th Mrs. Osmond by John Banville
A novel that extends the story of Isabel Archer, the heroine of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady, into unexpected (and completely stand-alone) territory. Isabel Archer is a young American woman, swept off to Europe in the late nineteenth century by an aunt who hopes to round out the impetuous but naive girl’s experience of the world. When Isabel comes into a large, unexpected inheritance, she is finagled into a marriage with the charming, penniless, and–as Isabel finds out too late–cruel and deceitful Gilbert Osmond, whose connection to a certain Madame Merle is suspiciously intimate. On a trip to England to visit her cousin Ralph Touchett on his deathbed, Isabel is offered a chance to free herself from the marriage, but nonetheless chooses to return to Italy. Banville follows James’s story line to this point. And when Isabel arrives in Italy–along with someone else!–the novel takes off in directions that James himself would be thrilled to follow.
January 3rd is Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet–sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, thrust into premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors–doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price.
February 7th Outline by Rachel Cusk
On a flight from London to Athens, two strangers strike up a conversation. The Greek businessman is as intimate and fulsome as the woman (our narrator) is restrained and observant. The woman is in Athens to lead a seminar, and over the next few days, she listens to narratives from Ryan, her fellow professor; her Greek friends Paniotis and Angeliki; and her students. From her responses to their stories, readers begin to glimpse vital truths about her character, which is actually at the heart of this original novel.
March 7th The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
The novel traces the intertwined lives of whites and Native Americans in the small Minnesota town of Pluto over the course of a century. The novel’s central event is the brutal murder of five members of a white farm family in 1911 and the subsequent lynching of three Native Americans—one a thirteen-year-old boy—accused, but innocent, of the crime. In the ensuing years, members of Pluto’s white community and the Ojibwe Indians from the nearby reservation intermarry, work alongside one another, and develop friendships and feuds, until eventually nearly every resident is in some way connected to the murders.
April 4th The Joker by Andrew Hudgins
In his debut memoir, Hudgins admits his Achilles’ heel for clowning. “Since junior high, I’ve been a joker, a punster, a laugher,” he writes, “someone who will say almost anything for a laugh.” In his memoir, he also proves that he will write anything for a laugh as well. No terrain proves too taboo for Hudgins, who dispenses racial jokes, misogynistic jokes and jokes in which Jesus and dead babies make appearances in the punch lines. Yet his often-bawdy material probes depths far beneath the jokes themselves, providing opportunities to examine his life through a humorous lens.
May 2nd A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
From the moment she entered the world, Francie needed to be made of stern stuff, for the often harsh life of Williamsburg demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior-such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce-no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama.
June 6th Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir
Ever since she was a child, Jane has longed for a cloistered life as a nun. But her large noble family has other plans, and as an adult, Jane is invited to the King’s court to serve as lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon. But once Henry disavows Katherine and secures Anne as his new queen—forever altering the religious landscape of England—he turns his eye to another: Jane herself. Urged to return the King’s affection and earn favor for her family, Jane is drawn into a dangerous political game that pits her conscience against her desires.
August 1st There There by Tommy Orange.
There There is a relentlessly paced multigenerational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. It tells the story of twelve characters, each of whom have private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow.
September 5th The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon
In the aftermath of World War II, a Jewish homeland has been established in Alaska rather than Israel. Amid the mean streets of Sitka, the major city, Detective Meyer Landsman lives in a seedy flophouse, where alcohol has dulled his investigative instincts. His marriage to his beloved Bina couldn’t survive an aborted pregnancy, after tests showed the possibility of birth defects. He also hasn’t gotten over the death of his younger sister, a pilot whose plane crashed. He finds his sense of mission renewed when there’s a murder in the hotel where he lives. The deceased was a heroin-addicted chess player, his slaying seemingly without motive. There’s an urgency to Landsman’s investigation, because the Promised Land established by the Alaskan Settlement Act is only a 50-year rental, with Jews expected to go elsewhere when the “Reversion” takes place two months hence. Thus, Landsman must solve the case before he loses his job and his home, a challenge complicated by the reappearance of his ex-wife, appointed chief of police during this transition before the Reversion.
October 3rd, 2019 One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. Rich and brilliant, it is a chronicle of life, death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the beautiful, ridiculous, and tawdry story of the Buendía family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.
November 7th, 2019 The Flame: Poems, Notebooks, Lyrics, Drawings by Leonard Cohen
A collection of lyrics, poems, notebook sketches, and self-portraits maps the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee’s singular creative journey through the weeks just prior to his death.
December 5th, 2019 Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Traces the author’s experiences as a child born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, describing her participation in her family’s paranoid stockpiling activities and her resolve to educate herself well enough to earn acceptance into a prestigious university and the unfamiliar world beyond.
January 2nd is A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.
Toole’s lunatic and sage novel introduces one of the most memorable characters in American literature, Ignatius Reilly, whom Walker Percy dubs “slob extraordinaire, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas rolled into one.”. As its characters burst into life, they leave the region and literature forever changed by their presence-Ignatius and his mother; Miss Trixie, the octogenarian assistant accountant at Levi Pants; inept, wan Patrolman Mancuso; Darlene, the Bourbon Street stripper with a penchant for poultry; Jones the jivecat in spaceage dark glasses.
February 6th The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Winner, 2017 Pulitzer Prize. Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned–Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
March 5th Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state — called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo — a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.