WHAT DO YOU WANT TO READ AND TALK ABOUT?

Subjects haven’t been selected after December – that means that you have a chance to choose what you’d like to be reading about / talking about during the long winter months – January, February and March – let’s be honest.  In Massachusetts March is still winter.

Send me a note with some suggestions.  (a contest you are pretty much assured of winning)

Already getting ready for our next meeting – Dec 20 at 11

November looked at WWI – a very serious subject – but in December we are being more frivolous – holiday titles – any holiday title.  Jeremy has already created a BIG display near his desk on the second floor so you have lots of choices.  Does your family have a holiday classic that is read every year?

Maybe you’d like to start a tradition.  Here are some possibilities

Christmas at Thompson Hall brings together the best of the Christmas stories of Anthony Trollope. Characterized by insightful, psychologically rich, and sometimes wryly humorous depictions of the middle class and gentry of Victorian England—and inspired occasionally by missives in the “lost letter” box of the provincial post office that Trollope ran—these tales helped to enshrine the traditions of the decorated Christmas tree, the holiday turkey, and the giving of store-bought gifts. Today, they open a window onto a time when carolers filled the streets and each house’s door displayed a wreath of evergreen boughs, a time at once distant and yet startlingly familiar.

A Christmas CarolCharles Dickens – I don’t have to tell you anything about this one

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry – a short story for those who find the holidays very busy

A Christmas MemoryTruman Capote - longer than a short story but short and filed under heartwarming Christmas stories

Days of Deliverance: Essays on Purim and Hanukkah by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

and lots and lots of mystery authors have holiday titles – apparently the holidays immediately bring thoughts of murder to some people.

Or maybe you have a favorite holiday story from your childhood – come and share it with us.

Feedback from our first meeting of this session

Today we were talking about books in the time of or about WWI.  In addition we looked at the photos of the memorial poppies at the Tower of London, listened to Christmas in the Trenches, enjoyed fresh baked bagels from Serendipity and saw some items from WWI that Mary had from her father who was in the war.

Books recommended:

A Very Long Engagement by Sebastien Japrisot – fiction set in France during WWI – recommended as a classic of the war.

My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louise Young – published in 2012 this novel follows two couples – an officer and his aristocratic wife and a young soldier and his childhood sweetheart.  Deals with the results of war injuries.  She picked this one up from the display that Jeremy created – be sure to check out his new display for holiday titles for December.

Anne Perry is best known for her Victorian mysteries but she has a series of books about WWI – No Graves as yet, Shoulder the Sky Angels in the Gloom, At Some Disputed Barricade, and We Shall not Sleep.  These books were the favorites of Lynette who also recommended the ones above.

Also from Lynette are 3 mysteries by Robert Olen Butler - The Empire of Night (set in Mexico), The Star of Istanbul (her favorite in this series) and The Hot Country (set in Germany and the UK)

The War Poets edited by Robert Giddings and shared by Mary. Not only are there many complete poems included in the anthology but reproduction of paintings, photographs, excerpts from letters, etc. provides a meaningful context for the poetry, which is the focus of this anthology. Comment made that WWI seemed to be the poets war with poets like Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, and Siegfried Sassoon coming out of it.

Regeneration by Pat Barker – First in the trilogy which includes The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road – a Booker prizewinner.  Regeneration deals with Siegfried Sasson poet and decorated war hero who publicly refused to continue serving as a British officer and was sent to a mental hospital where he was treated by Dr. William Rivers who was charged with restoring his sanity and sending him back to the trenches. A war book without any shooting but a fascinating look at the effects of war.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque - first novel by the author who was born in Germany and drafted into the German army during WWI.  Opinion was that the movie – while good – was not as good as the book.

The Greatest Game Ever Played by Mark Frost (also a film) – recommended by Karen who said you will enjoy it more if you are a golfer – it is set during WWI and has a lot of interesting information about what was happening in the golf world during that time.  Billed as the birth of modern golf it is about Francis Ouimet, an amateur golfer who won the U.S. Open. Non-fiction

Also recommended by Karen – A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (also filmed) – which most people enjoyed more than The Sun Also Rises. Story of an American serving as an ambulance driver for the Italians in WWI -

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes – Set in occupied France during WWI it is the story of a woman whose painter husband has enlisted, leaving her to run the restaurant in town.  When the Germans occupy the town she is required to feed them, creating problems with her neighbors and with the Commandant who is overly fond of her and of a portrait her husband painted of her.  The story picks up in present day time when the portrait, now owned by a young widow, is claimed by the descendants of the painter who charge that it was stolen by the Germans.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – only part of this book is set during WWI – it continues through WWII but she is such a good writer I wanted to mention it anyway. The story of how random choices can totally change a life.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks – Both a love story and the story of a young Englishmen who joins the army and is put in charge of a group of miners who job is to tunnel beneath German lines and set off bombs under the enemy trenches.  Very realistic descriptions of the trench warfare but beautifully written.

The SleepWalkers by Christopher Clark – a very well researched and detailed look at the causes of WWI – ending with the conclusion that there was no one cause and that every nation involved had an element of guilt.  Non-fiction.

It’s the time of year when we are beginning to see “best of” book lists

The one from the Library Journal is below.  I have read only two of these titles – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell which is a long complicated book that begins with magic and ends in a dystopian world and The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin which is a warm lovely story of a widower in a book store who finds an abandoned child that turns his life around.

So here’s my question -how do you decide on what’s a best book?  What are your criteria and how broad does it have to be to encompass two such different books? (both recommended by the way).

Best Books 2014: Top Ten

By Bette-Lee Fox, Liz French, Barbara Hoffert, Stephanie Klose, Amanda Mastrull, Annalisa Pesek, Stephanie Sendaula, Henrietta Verma, and Wilda Williams

state Best Books 2014: Top TenGay, Roxane. An Untamed State. Grove. ISBN 9780802122513. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780802192677. F
In Gay’s debut novel, Mireille Jameson is kidnapped while visiting her parents in Haiti with her American husband and their son. Her father will not pay the ransom, despite being well able to afford it, and Mireille’s awareness of his refusal magnifies the horrors she endures. Though she is eventually released, she struggles to adjust to life after the ordeal. Gripping, harrowing, and unforgettable. (LJ 2/1/14)—SK

hide Best Books 2014: Top TenGreenwald, Glenn. No Place to Hide. Metropolitan: Holt.ISBN 9781627790734; pap. ISBN 9781250062581. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781627790741. POL SCI
Greenwald provides the authoritative story of the 2013 national security leak by National Security Agency (NSA) whistle-blower Edward Snowden. A Guardian columnist at the time, Greenwald here details meeting Snowden in Hong Kong and the legalities and logistics of publishing articles about leaked material while criticizing the media’s response. Particularly noteworthy is his comprehensive and fascinating examination of the documents—including why the NSA’s actions should matter to all citizens. (LJ 6/15/14)—AM

five Best Books 2014: Top TenHarris, Mark. Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War. Penguin. ISBN 9781594486005. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698170506. FILM
Film historian extraordinaire Harris (Pictures at a Revolution) conveys the very different personalities of award-winning directors John Huston, George Stevens, William Wyler, Frank Capra, and John Ford as they went to war for the United States. We see how their experiences shaped their work when they returned to Hollywood—and how they helped to transform the U.S. War Department’s propaganda machine. (LJ 3/1/14)—LF

brief Best Books 2014: Top TenJames, Marlon. A Brief History of Seven Killings. Penguin.ISBN 9781594486005. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698170506. F
Ironically, this stunning fictional investigation of the attempted assassination of reggae star Bob Marley days before Jamaica’s 1976 general election isn’t about Marley, who hardly appears. It’s about Jamaica itself, as we’ve never seen it, revealed in a lush, intensive outpouring of voices that range from lowlifes and CIA agents to a naïve reporter and a woman on the make. As the accumulated detail reveals, this history could never have been brief; there’s too much to learn. (LJ 7/1/14)—BH

sixth Best Books 2014: Top TenKolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction. Holt. ISBN 9780805092998. $28; pap. ISBN 9781250062185. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780805099799NAT HIST
There have been five major species extinctions over the past half billion years, the result of natural catastrophes. Earth is now in the midst of a sixth extinction, says New Yorker writer Kolbert, and we humans are the primary cause. Drawing on the research of marine biologists, atmospheric scientists, geologists, forest ecologists, and paleontologists, her eye-opening and movingly written report is science journalism at its finest and an important wake-up call. (LJ 2/15/14)—WW

sin Best Books 2014: Top TenKrist, GaryEmpire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans. Crown. ISBN 9780770437060. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780770437077. HIST
Join the eccentric coterie within Storyville, New Orleans’s red-light district. There’s resolute saloon owner Tom Anderson, the “Mayor of Storyville”; thriving madam Josie Arlington; determined musician Louis Armstrong; and a serial killer colloquially referred to as the “Ax-Man.” Moments of vigilante justice and loose affiliations with the Mafia complete this gripping true-crime narrative. (LJ 10/1/14)—SS

clocks Best Books 2014: Top TenMitchell, David. The Bone Clocks. Random. ISBN 9781400065677. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780812994735. F
In this breathtaking, audaciously brilliant book, Holly Sykes gets caught in the battle between good Horologists and evil soul decanters, fleeing her grubby English hometown after her brother’s disappearance for a fling with amoral Hugo in the snowy Alps, marriage to urgently rational war reporter Ed, and beyond. The book isn’t about Holly, though, but about the variety of fantastically rendered worlds we move through as her story—which is to say our story, past, present, and future—unfolds. (LJXpress Reviews, 10/9/14)—BH

us Best Books 2014: Top TenNicholls, David. Us. Harper. ISBN 9780062365583. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062365606. F
Meet the Petersens, off on a summer grand tour of Europe. Son Albie, heading to university in the fall, isn’t totally on board, while artist Connie and biochemist Douglas skirt around the disintegration of their 24-year marriage. It could all turn into a ghastly mess, but in the hands of the astute and fulgent Nicholls, this family tale probes the true value and power of love. (LJ9/15/14)—BLF

luck Best Books 2014: Top TenSmiley, Jane. Some Luck. Knopf. ISBN 9780307700315. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385350396. F
In a work both grand and intimate, about parents and children, hope and disappointment, countryside and country, Smiley moves from the 1920s to the 1950s as she unfurls the life of Iowa farmers Rosanna and Walter Langdon. Then, as their children grow up and sometimes move away, she steps back to offer a wide-angle view of the country midcentury. The beautiful, you-are-there language allows ordinary events to amass, giving us a significant feel for life at the time. (LJ 7/14)—BH

life Best Books 2014: Top TenZevin, Gabrielle. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. AlgonquinISBN 9781616203214. $24.95;
pap. ISBN 9781616204518. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616203948. F
A.J. Fikry, a young widower, is the owner of Island Books on Alice Island, trying to heal and keep his bookstore and himself from going under. A.J.’s life takes a wondrous turn when he happens upon an abandoned two-year-old in the store. Maya is clever and charming and quickly captures his curmudgeon heart. Zevin’s adult fiction debut, “about a life of books, redemption, and second chances…reminds us exactly why we read and why we love.” (LJ 2/1/14)—AP

It’s already November

Getting ready for our first meeting this session on Saturday, November 15 at 11 a.m. – subject – in case you forgot is WWI.

I just got back from a trip to Eastern Europe where WWI was much discussed as the ending of empires as we traveled across countries much involved in that war.  And just started reading The Sleepwalkers which is touted as one of the best explanations of how this war came to be.

If it is confession time, I carried Parade’s End with me on the trip and I tried to read it – I really did.  But it turns out to be a compilation of 4 books and at least the first one Some Do Not seems much more about the character of Christopher Tietjens and his very bored wife than about the period around the war. So while I may come back to it, it won’t be discussed at this meeting.

Hope you have found something interesting to read – remember that Jeremy put a display upstairs with some appropriate titles.  Looking forward to seeing you at the meeting.