Book Bash Choices: March '15

We always have fun, and lots of attendees, at our Bash events.  Our March '15 Bash sessions were no exception, and may have set records.   If you couldn't get here, you can still find out about the great books we discussed. 

Fiction:

Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell (Ballantine $16). A window into the secret plans of the 1921 Cairo Conference, which set up modern Iraq. Through the eyes of a Holy Land tourist, we see the not-yet-legendary T. E. Lawrence, Winston Churchill, Gertrude Bell, and a host of characters setting in motion events that reverberate in the Mideast today. (Rosemary)

 

Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García (Ballantine $15). Follows the lives of three generations of women, showing how culture, family, and spirituality shape who we are and the place we choose to call home. García pulls from Santería and its relationship to color to create vivid imagery that mirrors the characters' lives. (Emily Catherine)

 

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper (Simon & Schuster $26, pb due May 26). The story of Etta, an eighty-two year old woman in a pilgrimage across Canada in the company of a coyote named James, and the story of her husband Otto’s war years and their childhood friend, Russell, who was exempt from the war. (Mamie)

 

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (Beacon $13.50). Caught in a time vortex between her own California present and a Civil War-Era Maryland plantation, Dana finds herself the unlikely companion and mentor of a slave owner. She is forced to face the realities of slavery to make it safely back to her own time. (Emily Catherine)

 

Miss New India by Bharati Mukherjee (Mariner $14.95). Born into a traditional lower-middle-class family, Anjali Bose joins an audacious and ambitious set of young people in Bangalore who are able to out-earn their parents, and who are suddenly free from the traditional confines of class, caste, and gender. But the seductive pull of modernity does not come without a dark side. (Lisa)

 

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure (Sourcebooks Landmark $14.99). During the German occupation of Paris in WWII, an architect is transformed by the experience when he's challenged to create hiding places for Jews being hunted by the Gestapo. (Lisa)

 

Redeployment by Phil Klay (Penguin $16). An award-winning debut collection of short stories dealing with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, voiced with emotional depth and bitter irony. Winner of the 2014 National Book Award. (Tony)

 

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine (Grove $16). A 72-year-old woman living in Beirut tells us of her life, her loves, and her city in a magnificent voice filled with humor and history and literature. (Tony)

 

Poetry

 

Two from Mamie: Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation by Roger Housden (Harmony $20). All of Housden's collections would make great book club material. These could be for reading a poem in lieu of a book at a meeting in one of those notoriously busy months. Or as a reflection at the beginning of a meeting, use his wonderful collection Ten Poems to Change Your Life (Harmony $16), which provides poems with commentary to aid in discussion.

Nonfiction

 

The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature by Ben Tarnoff (Penguin $17). Portrait of an emerging Western America—and the writers who gave voice to its identity, featuring a young Twain. Bonus book: Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America's First Bohemians by Justin Martin (Da Capo $27.99). (Kent)

 

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink (Crown $27). A well-researched and balanced view of a major New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina that exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care during such a disaster, and shows how ill-prepared we are for the impact of large-scale disasters. (Rosemary)


From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas L. Friedman (Picador $19). A wonderful chronicle of Friedman's time as a New York Times correspondent in both of these cities. An essential historical primer as well as a moving portrait of real people and real suffering. (Tony)


The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics, and

Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible by Simon Winchester (Harper $16.99). Surprising insights into our social history, with his narrative enriched by his own journeys. (Kent)

Year Zero: A History of 1945 by Ian Buruma (Penguin $17). In the pivotal year 1945, a new world emerged from the ruins of WWII, with regime change on a global scale. People dealt with revenge, blame, trying to return home, making plans to rebuild, and simply surviving. (Kent)

 

Children's

 

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen $16.99) Woodson's memoir-in-verse highlights the early days of the Civil Rights movement as viewed by a child being schooled in the art of safely living black in the South. I have not encountered another book that conveys the uncertainty of that time as well, and with as much age appropriateness. Ages 9+. (Carol)

 

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (HarperCollins $7.99). Told from the viewpoint of a gorilla long imprisoned in a shopping mall "zoo". Applegate paints a bittersweet story of courage, loyalty, friendship, and the power of art. Ivan's so used to captivity that he's forgotten what freedom is like - until he determines to win it for another. Ages 8+. (Carol)

 

What I Came to Tell You by Tommy Hays (EgmontUSA $8.99). Set in Asheville, this is an emotionally rich story of a family regrouping after the mother's unexpected death. Tensions between the father and young son intensify painfully until help comes from a most unexpected source. Beautifully written for ages 10+. (Carol)