Afterthoughts Book Discussion Group
We select a new book to discuss every month. Library copies of the book are available at the Second Level (Rotunda) Circulation Desk. Come join us for a lively discussion and meet others who also enjoy reading. New members are always welcome. This group meets on the second Tuesday of each month from noon to 1:00 p.m. in the Central Library Community Room.
For further information, contact Lisa Lipshires at 413-263-6828 ext. 395 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reading Selections For 2018
January 9 – The Sea by John Banville (2005) fiction.
In this Booker Prize-winning novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory, we meet Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who, to cope with the recent loss of his wife, has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child. It is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled family with whom he first experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death.
February 13 – The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer (2016) nonfiction.
Since the 1980s, librarian and collector Abdel Kader Haidara traveled by camel, canoe, and on foot, crossing perilous terrain, to acquire ancient manuscripts that had been hidden for safekeeping, sometimes in caves or holes in the ground. His goal: to preserve this crucial part of the world’s inheritance in a gorgeous library. But then, in 2012, Al Qaeda showed up at the door.
(Due to a snow cancellation in March, we will also be discussing the previous month’s book, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead)
April 10 The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016) fiction.
Here, the Underground Railroad is not metaphorical but real, a welter of tracks and tunnels hidden beneath the soil. A slave named Cora, brutalized by her Georgia master yet shunned by her own, determines to escape via the railroad with newly arrived slave Caesar. She inadvertently kills a white boy trying to capture her, then arrives with Caesar in South Carolina, the ruthless slave-catcher Ridgeway on their heels.
April 10– The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery (2015) nonfiction.
Naturalist Montgomery chronicles her extraordinary experience bonding with three octopuses housed in the New England Aquarium and the small group of people who became devoted to them. As a casual visitor to the aquarium, she had been intrigued by the sense that the octopuses, invertebrates separated from us by millions of years on the tree of life, she watched were also watching her. “Was it possible,” she writes, “to reach another mind on the other side of the divide?” Along with an abundance of fascinating octopus lore, Montgomery illuminates her own quest to understand the creatures better and paints vivid portraits of the people who are similarly drawn to them.
May 8 – A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (2014) fiction.
A curmudgeon hides a terrible personal loss beneath a cranky and short-tempered exterior while clashing with new neighbors, a boisterous family whose chattiness and habits lead to unexpected friendship.
June 12 – American Phoenix: The Remarkable Story of William Skinner, a Man Who Turned Disaster into Destiny by Sarah S. Kilborne (2012) nonfiction.
Traces the rise, fall, and improbable comeback of a leading founder of the American silk industry in Holyoke, Massachusetts, offering insight into how William Skinner’s considerable knowledge and business acumen rendered him a millionaire and helped him to rebuild after losing everything in a devastating flood.
July 10 – The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (2017) fiction.
Arden’s darkly magical fairy tale for adults tells the story of Vasya, daughter of a supposed witch, in the northern reaches of medieval Russia. When danger threatens her family, Vasya must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed. The story is grounded in the realities of daily life in the time period, where the top of a large stove serves as a bed for the elderly and the ill, and the dining hall of the Grand Prince of Moscow reeks of “mead and dogs, dust and humanity.”
August 14 – The Light of the World: A Memoir by Elizabeth Alexander (2015) nonfiction.
Acclaimed poet Elizabeth Alexander finds herself at a crossroads after the sudden death of her beloved husband. Reflecting on the beauty of her married life, the trauma of her husband’s death, and the solace found in caring for her two teenage sons, Alexander universalizes a very personal quest for meaning and acceptance in the wake of loss.
September 11 – A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (2013) fiction.
In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who has lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace–and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox–possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
October 9 – Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books by Aaron Lansky (2004) nonfiction.
Lansky was a 23-year-old graduate student in 1980 when he came up with an idea that would eventually lead to his founding of the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts: he wanted to save Yiddish books from extinction. Lansky’s account is both hilarious and moving, filled with Jewish humor, memories of a faraway past, stories of midnight rescues from rain-soaked dumpsters, and touching accounts of Lansky’s trips to what were once thriving Jewish communities in Europe.
November 13 – Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (1997) fiction.
The “memoirs” of one of Japan’s most celebrated geishas describes how, as a little girl in 1929, she is sold into slavery; her efforts to learn the arts of the geisha; the impact of World War II; and her struggle to reinvent herself to win the man she loves. Golden, with degrees in Japanese art and history, spent ten years researching a culture and customs closed to most Westerners.
December 11 – Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff. (2011) nonfiction.
On May 13, 1945, an American plane carrying 24 servicemen and women crashed in the jungles of Dutch New Guinea/Papua, leaving three survivors in a land known for the violence of its people. Lost in Shangri-La recounts the story of an extraordinary rescue mission and the humorous and at times dangerous misunderstandings that arose between the Americans and the indigenous people they encountered.