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 llipshires@springfieldlibrary.org.

Reading Selections for 2017

January 10The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (1963) nonfiction.
The Fire Next Time was first published in 1963, a time when the prevailing racial order was being challenged by young activists on a scale and with a fervor not seen since the Civil War. The first several pages of the book are styled in the form of a letter to Baldwin’s 15-year-old nephew, offering advice about how to navigate the world he has been born into with black skin. Baldwin implores his nephew to awaken to his own dignity, humanity and power, and accept his responsibility to help “make America what it must become.” (NY Times Sunday Book Review)

betweentheworldBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015) nonfiction.
Between the World and Me carries a very different message, though it is also written in the form of a letter to a black teenage boy. The boy is Coates’s 15-year-old son, who — like Baldwin’s nephew — is trying to make sense of blatant racial injustice and come to grips with his place in a world that refuses to guarantee for him the freedoms that so many others take for granted. (NY Times Sunday Book Review)

February 14Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (2015) fiction.
A senior-aged widow and widower forge a loving bond over shared loneliness and respective histories, provoking local gossip and the disapproval of their grown children in ways that are further complicated by an extended visit by a sad young grandchild.

March 14: Cancelled due to snowstormSidonia’s Thread: The Secrets of a Mother and Daughter Sewing a New Life in America by Hanna Perlstein Marcus (2012) nonfiction.
When Hanna Perlstein and her mother, Sidonia, come to Springfield, Massachusetts from a displaced persons camp after World War II, they know no one in America. With no other family, except each other, they build a world that revolves around Sidonia’s extraordinary talent with a needle and thread to create beautiful garments while Hanna serves as her dutiful model. As Sidonia becomes well-known in western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut for her remarkable sewing talent, she continues to keep her inner secrets about her past hidden not only from her daughter but from everyone else.

April 11Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea (2009) fiction.
Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the U.S. when she was young. There are almost no men in the village–they’ve all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men–her own “Siete Magníficos”–to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over.

Due to a snow day cancellation in March, we will be discussing two books in April: Sidonia’s Thread: The Secrets of a Mother and Daughter Sewing a New Life in America by Hanna Perlstein Marcus (2012) nonfiction AND Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea (2009) fiction.

May 9Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt (2015) nonfiction.
The Maines were a middle-class, hard-working, politically conservative New England couple whose lives felt complete when they adopted identical twin sons. As toddlers, Jonas was the son Kelly and Wayne Maines expected, but Wyatt was only interested in girls’ clothes and toys. By age five, this conflict was tearing Wyatt–and the family–apart. Today, Wyatt is Nicole. She and Jonas are now graduating from high school. This is the story of a journey that could have destroyed a family, but instead united them.

June 13Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (2013) fiction.
Close to aging out of the foster care system, Molly Ayer takes a position helping an elderly woman named Vivian and discovers that they are more alike than different as she helps Vivian solve a mystery from her past.

July 11When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (2016) nonfiction.
On the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. Kalanithi chronicles his transformation from a naive medical student into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

August 8Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett (2015) fiction.
While teaching an African American women’s history course, author Barnett found her students stunned by the question of how black people managed to survive after slavery. Her answer: “The black press.” So it’s hardly surprising that her debut novel is inspired by the life of African American journalist and newspaper editor Ida B. Wells. Here, Ivoe Williams is consumed by a passion for journalism after stealing a newspaper from her mother’s white employer, eventually helping to found the first female-run African American newspaper.

September 12West with the Night by Beryl Markham (1942) nonfiction.
Beryl Markham was a British-born Kenyan aviatrix, adventurer, and racehorse trainer. During the pioneer days of aviation, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. “With the skill of someone who has filled long nights with stories, Markham recounts her adventures–discoveries, rescues, and narrow escapes, the glint of an airplane abandoned in the desert, the look of a lion about to pounce…. Much more than a pilot’s memoir, West with the Night is a wise, funny, and inspiring exploration of a life well lived.” (The Nation)

October 10Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson (2013) fiction.
The gripping tale about two boys, once as close as brothers, who find themselves on opposite sides of the Holocaust. Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek, “the butcher of Zamosc.” Although the charges are denounced as preposterous, his accuser, Ben Solomon, is convinced he is right. Solomon persuades attorney Catherine Lockhart to take his case, revealing that the true Piatek was abandoned as a child and raised by Solomon’s family only to betray them during the Nazi occupation. But has he accused the right man?

November 14Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller (2001) nonfiction.
In an intimate memoir of growing up in Africa during the Rhodesian civil war of 1971 to 1979, Fuller describes her life on farms in southern Rhodesia, Milawi, and Zambia, detailing her hardscrabble existence with an alcoholic mother, frequently absent father, and three lost siblings, as well as her fierce love for Africa.

December 12The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (2003) fiction.
In The Namesake, Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection, An Interpreter of Maladies, an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations.