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84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

In our contemporary life, where nearly any book we want to read can be quickly found and purchased with just a click of a mouse or read on an electronic device, it’s hard to remember when people had to search for specific books. This memoir, constructed entirely of letters, takes you back to those pre-Amazon days and into the life of writer Helene Hanff. What began in 1949 as a search for a collection of Hazlitt letters that was of better quality than “Barnes and Noble’s grimy, marked-up schoolboy copies” became a transatlantic friendship between the writer and Mr. Frank Doel of Marks & Co Booksellers of 84 Charing Cross Road, London. As the friendship develops it creates an image of the physicality of books-the scent, the feel of a tight binding, the leather cover, the turning of a page-that will renew your affection for books, reading, and friendship. Call Number: BG 921 Hanff

About a Boy by Nick Hornby

Will Lightman is coasting through his hip North London lifestyle of smug self-interest, proudly unconcerned with his rather shallow character and living off of the royalties of a popular jingle his father wrote years ago. While keeping score of his chart-topping coolness, Will devises a brilliant plan to meet vulnerable (read: desperate) single women in an effort to sustain his juvenile ego but ultimately relieve him of any form of long-term commitment or responsibility. So when he is drawn into the depressed life of Fiona and her precociously quirky twelve year-old son, Marcus, Will’s anxiety and refusal to see himself as anything but a indolent man-child comes to a head in a way that can only be About a Boy. Call Number: BG Hornby

Addie by Mary Lee Settle

Author Mary Lee Settle’s memoir is an unforgettable portrait, not only of her own childhood, but also the lives and fortunes of her feisty Grandmother Addie. Born in West Virginia, Addie ends up in Kentucky, and her life encompasses some of the themes of America itself: the Civil War, the pioneers’ move West, and, above all, family, Addie is a wonderful character: a Holy Roller and believer in ghosts, but also someone who interests her granddaughter in the great literature and helps to shape a future author. Settle’s account is a reminder that the past always shapes the future, and that family is always at the beginning of our story.Call Number: BG 921 Settle

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Haven’t read this book since you were a kid? Then you may remember some of the lighter episodes in the book: the whitewashed fence, skipping school to play on the Mississippi River, or Becky and Tom falling in “love”. But do you remember some of the book’s darker threads? Superstition, violence, racism, and poverty hover just under the surface of this book, and merit a re-reading by all adults. The fun and nostalgia are still there, but you’ll also uncover real truths about life in the America of Twain’s childhood.Call Number: BG Twain

After the Dancing Days by Margaret Rostkowski

Young Annie learns about the horrors of World War I through the suffering and stories of wounded soldiers recovering in a veterans’ hospital near her small Kansas hometown. Annie, who has lost a much loved uncle during the recent war, learns the real story of his death, and comes to a better understanding of the world outside her comfortable life. Author Rostkowski is an elementary teacher in Ogden, and this, her first novel, won multiple awards in Utah and across the nation.Call Number: BG Rostkowski

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Newland Archer is a man unable to choose between the comfortable and the unknown. Set in New York’s high society at the end of the 1800’s, The Age of Innocence details the lavish lifestyle of an American “Gilded Age” and the emergence of a powerful American aristocracy. In the center of it, the calm and cultured Newland is engaged to the perfect woman: May Welland, equally cultured and rich, a true match. Nothing can go wrong, until the fascinating Countess Ellen Olenska arrives. Socially ostracized for her divorce, gossiped about and misunderstood, Countess Olenska represents freedom from social constraints and duty to self – the things Newland wants but is too timid to claim. A biting indictment of wealth and society, Wharton’s novel is also a bittersweet love story that won her the Pulitzer Prize. Call Number: BG Wharton

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

Anne Bronte is probably most famous for being the sister of Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre) and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights). Instead of writing wild romantic tales (like her sisters), Anne Bronte created strong women who overcame opposition with commonsense and hard work. Her characters earned the right to be loved and, in turn, to love. Agnes Grey is based on Bronte’s personal experience as a governess, and is an ironic critique of nineteenth century English middle-class society. Call Number: BG Bronte

The All-Girls Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

She might be facing an empty nest and her demanding mother’s continuous needs, but southerner Sookie Simmons Poole is doing just fine—until she receives a letter that sets her life in an entirely new direction. Her research leads her to the Jurdabralinski family, four sisters who helped keep their family’s Phillip’s 66 gas station afloat during World War II, as well as serving the United States as members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Sookie’s process of discovering who she really is (not who her overbearing mother wants her to be) is fueled by her growing knowledge of those four courageous sisters. Full of Flagg’s trademark southern charm mixed with a little-known part of American history, The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is a quirky novel, warm and funny and the smallest bit bittersweet.

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

This classic work of political fiction won the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Intrigue, corruption, propaganda, and the nature of power are explored in the rise of the book’s flamboyant main character Willie Stark (the fictional equivalent of the highly controversial ex-governor of Louisiana Huey Long). The novel has twice been adapted for the silver screen (including the 2006 version starring Sean Penn) and inspired the author of the book Primary Colors. In addition, Robert Penn Warren is one the most decorated authors of the last century. His career culminated in 1986 when he was named the country’s first poet laureate. Call Number: BG Warren

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer

This haunting, almost gentle novel tells the story of Marie, a blind girl growing up in France as World War II begins, and Werner, an orphan growing up in Germany during the same time. Marie’s father is the locksmith at the Museum of Natural History; he creates keys and locks, and distributes them, to protect the museum’s acquisitions. Werner lives in an orphanage in Essen, the mining district of Germany; his father was killed in a coal mine. Each character has a transition: Werner’s natural instinct for science, math, and radio technology is discovered by a Nazi official, who arranges for him to be sent to the school at Schulpforta, where Nazis were created out of ordinary boys, while Marie moves to St. Malo, an ancient city on the coast of France, after the invasion of Paris. The dual stories intertwine with that of von Rumpel, a German diamond expert tasked by the Nazis with the responsibility of finding the Sea of Flames jewel, which may or may not be cursed—and might possibly be in the possession of Marie’s father. An elegant study of the way technology, time, and war influence the personal behaviors of individuals, All the Light We Cannot See illustrates that there are still stories to be told about this harrowing time in history.

All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein

When Woodward and Bernstein first broke the Watergate story in the The Washington Post, they made history and altered the future of America. This story behind breaking this shattering series of articles is recorded in fascinating detail by the authors, and first introduced the nation to the infamous and shadowy “Deep Throat”. A thriller, a mystery story, and an important look at politics in America. Call Number: BG 364.132 B458

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

Michael and Pauline fall in love at first sight and subsequently marry in the patriotic fervor following Pearl Harbor. The two quickly discover their polar-opposite personalities, and frequent fighting strains their relationship and home. After decades of marriage, both must re-examine their lives, and how this marriage of opposites has quietly effected family and friends alike. Call Number: BG Tyler

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

The novel opens when wheelchair bound historian Lyman Ward decides to chronicle the lives of his extraordinary grandparents and their struggles to settle the western frontier. From boom towns in Colorado to near starvation on the banks of an Idaho river, and finally quiet and near-peace in California, Lyman travels with his grandparents to discover he is connected to his family in more ways that he ever imagined. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972, and was written when Stegner himself was presented with a brief biographical history and series of letters that would inspire the creation of one of American fiction’s most memorable couples: Susan and Oliver Ward. Call Number: BG Stegner

Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje

Anil Tissera returns to her native Sri Lanka after many years. She is now a forensic anthropologist, part of an UN human rights commission sent to investigate the horrors of an ongoing civil war. Assigned to work with complex and withdrawn archeologist Sarath Diyasena, a man who loves the past more than he lives in the present, Anil is drawn deeper into the complex and devastating effects of war. Ignoring personal safety, Anil begins investigating a mysterious skeleton uncovered on a government sanctuary, and sets in motion consequences she cannot predict. Another poetic masterpiece from Michael Ondaatje, himself a native Sri Lankan, and celebrated author of The English Patient. Call Number: BG Ondaatje

An Irish Country Wedding by Patrick Taylor

Set in the fictional North Ireland village of Ballybucklebo, Taylor’s Irish Country novels tell the stories of the townspeople, as experienced by the local MDs, Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly and the apprentice Dr. Barry Laverty. These gentle, humorous, and sweet stories paint a vivid picture of Ireland in the 1960s. In An Irish Country Wedding, the seventh in the series (the books need not be read in order), Dr. O’Reilly has finally proposed to his childhood sweetheart, but when his housekeeper, Kinky Kincade, comes up ill, a series of dramas—as well as the beginning of the Troubles—might set back the wedding.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

An international classic, and perhaps the most honored Russian novel ever written. Anna Karenina is a nineteenth-century Russia socialite who must choose between her boring bureaucratic husband and the dashing Count Vronsky, and between becoming a social outcast or losing the love of her life. A romance that continues to enthrall readers around the world. Call Number: BG Tolstoy

The Atlas of Love by Laurie Frankel

“You don’t get through graduate school without alliances,” Janey Duncan knows. Her alliance is her friendship with Jill and Katie, fellow students working on Literature PhDs. When Jill discovers she’s pregnant and her boyfriend discovers he’s not interested in being a parent, the three friends decide to take care of the baby together. What a first seems like an ideal solution forces them to explore (and revise) what they know about friendship, adulthood, faith, parenting, and family.Call Number: BG Frankel

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan’s haunting novel details the devastating impact of one child’s mistake on a summer day in 1935. After observing her older sister Cecilia and the housekeeper’s son Robbie in a compromising situation she doesn’t understand, young Briony makes an accusation that will change lives. The book follows Robbie years later as he fights and suffers in World War II. Briony is now a nurse in war-torn London, more conscious of the effects her childish accusation has unleashed, and wanting to make amends to both Robbie and Cecilia. Part crime story, part romance, part history, this heartbreaking novel deserves its designation as a modern classic. Call Number: BG McEwan

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

First published in 1899, this beautiful, brief novel so disturbed critics and the public that it was banned in America for decades afterward. Now widely read and admired, The Awakening has been hailed as an early example of the modern novel. Originally entitled “A Solitary Soul,” the novel serves as a portrait of twenty-eight-year-old Edna Pontellier as she searches for love outside a stifling marriage, and finds herself, in turn, awakening to the beauty in nature and herself . Author Willa Cather described its style as “exquisite,” “sensitive,” and “iridescent.” Call Number: BG Chopin

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

Taylor Greer leaves Kentucky to begin a new life in the West, never imagining the strange shape her journey will take. Given a 3-year-old girl by a Cherokee woman in Oklahoma, Greer decides to keep the toddler, but a pair of flat tires in Tucson forces the two to settle down and try to make a real home. The novel is a tale of freedom, friendship, love, and resourcefulness, with a light dose of wit and humor. Thousands have enjoyed Kingsolver’s charming and insightful characters. Call Number: BG Kingsolver

A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar

This biography of mathematician John Nash details both his genius (Nash would win the Nobel Prize in 1995 for his outstanding work) and his complex personal life, including a nearly lifelong struggle with schizophrenia. Nasar also reveals a fascinating, insider’s portrait of Princeton, MIT, and the Nobel selection committee. This book made a splash when it was made into an Oscar-winning film, and deserves to be read in its own right. Call Number: BG 921 Nash

Bee Season by Myla Goldberg

How do individuals manage to have spiritual interactions with deity? That question, and perhaps some answers, is at the core of Myla Goldberg’s novel. When she wins her school spelling bee, Eliza Naumann discovers her previously-unknown talent with letters, which changes her life completely. No longer the mediocre daughter in her family, she takes her brother Aaron’s place in her father’s attentions. Saul Naumann, a cantor, has devoted his life to Jewish mysticism; he uses this knowledge as he coaches Eliza, preparing her for both upcoming spelling bees and her own route through mysticism. Eliza’s mother, Miriam, has a secret life that is, in its peculiar way, an attempt to connect with the divine. Aaron, too, keeps his actions secret. In their own painful ways, each character is looking for what Aaron describes as “the sense of absolute assurance that filled him with the idea that God was right there.” Somewhere within the search, between spelling bees and obsessive behavior, the Naumann family begins falling apart, and the ways they both do and don’t put themselves back together will leave this novel embedded in your memory. Call Number: BG Goldberg

Bellfield Hall, or, the Observations of Miss Dido Kent by Anna Dean

Set in the 1805 England that’s familiar from Jane Austen’s novels, this is the first in a mystery series. Dido Kent, at 35 years old, is considered to be a hopeless spinster—but solving mysteries gives her life a sense of purpose. Dido’s niece Catherine is heartbroken, as her fiancé has abruptly called off the engagement. He vanishes, and then a murdered woman is found on the grounds of Bellfield Hall, and Dido must figure out if the two are connected. Call Number: BG Dean

Bless Me, Ultima by Rodolfo Anaya

Set in 1940s New Mexico, this is Rudolfo Anaya’s award-winning Latino coming of age novel. The work’s main character, young Antonio, is torn between the lifestyles of his father’s cowboy family and his mother’s farming relations. One side wants him on a horse; the other would have him become a priest. However, Antonio’s life changes forever when Ultima, Antonio’s aunt, comes to live with the family. Ultima, a mystical healer, teaches Antonio how to gather the knowledge that will help him become a man. Call Number: BG Anaya

Blessings by Anna Quindlen

A young couple leaves a baby on Lydia Blessing’s estate. Skip Cuddy, the caretaker, finds the baby and decides to keep her. Secrets take center stage as the story progresses. As a result, fundamental questions like what makes a person or a life and who really makes decisions are addressed. The novel is a touching look at redemption and life’s central questions. Call Number: BG Quindlen

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

In the 1980’s, Ireland was a country mangled by The Troubles, and all that 18-year-old Fergus McCann wants is to finish high school and escape to university in Scotland. But it is difficult for him to avoid the conflicts in his world: his older brother Joe, arrested for involvement in the IRA, begins a hunger strike in prison, and a local criminal is blackmailing Fergus into smuggling mysterious packages across the Irish border. When he discovers a body in a peat bog, Fergus begins dreaming of a murder victim, whose story intertwines with his own, helping him to understand the choices he needs to make. A coming-of-age story set in a turbulent era, Bog Child mixes modern history with bronze-age Ireland in a haunting novel with plenty of topics to discuss.

The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan

In this powerful story of courage, hardships, survival, and healing, a Chinese-born mother and her America-born daughter explore their past. Although tragedy has marred their lives, Tan explores three generations of women who, despite vastly different circumstances, are tied by the common bonds of heritage. Call Number: BG Tan

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief rotates around an unlikely pair: the narrator – death – and the young Liesel Meminger, whose father has disappeared for being a communist and whose mother soon vanishes. On the way to a foster home in Musling, Germany, her younger brother dies, and at the small grave side service, she steals a book from one of the grave diggers about how to dig graves. Books become intertwined with dying, with the powerful destructive forces of Nazi Germany all around her. Because she can’t yet read, Liesel’s new foster father teaches her how – using the gravedigger’s manual as a reading primer. Once she can read, she becomes a book thief, stealing tomes from piles set aside for burning and from the mayor’s wife. Death, unable to resist Liesel, comments and explains, adding a layer of sardonic wit to this story that will linger, haunting, in your memory. Call Number: BG Zusak

Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation by Sally M. Walker

This Sibert Medal Winner tells the long history of the 40 degree north parallel line of latitude—also known as the Mason-Dixon line. The boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland, this line was mapped in the 1760’s by British surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. It was one of the greatest technological and scientific feats of that time period. Full of photographs of instruments, charts, diagrams, details of maps, and excerpts of old letters and journals, Boundaries brings this story to life with vivid, compelling text.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

A random encounter with a book called Using Energy changed the world for William Kamkwamba. Living in Malawi, an African country hit hard in the early 2000’s by drought and famine, he was hungry. The drought ruined his family’s farm, and soon his family could no longer afford to pay for his tuition. Just a teenager, Kamkwamba turned to his small local library for education; when he learned about windmills he decided to build one. Scrapped together with pieces of bicycles, tractor parts, and scrap metal, the windmill brought to his family what only 2% of Malawians have: electricity and running water. His story spread beyond his small country, helping him become a source of inspiration about how ingenuity and determination create change. Call Number: BG 921 Kamkwamba

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

Wilder, the playwright of the American classic Our Town and the only person to win the Pulitzer Prize in both fiction and drama, uses the event of bridge collapse in 18th century Peru to examine the human condition through the eyes of an investigating monk. Call Number: BG Wilder

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

In the 1950’s, Jennifer Worth left her comfortable, middle-class life to work in London’s East End as a midwife. She gathers the stories of her experiences in this remarkable memoir. The chapters alternate between telling the intimate stories of the laboring mothers in this poor part of post-war London and describing the often-humorous accounts of living at Nonnatus House, the convent where Worth was based. The stories here vary widely, some grim, some joyful, just as the lives of the families did in that time; the sometimes-gritty medical details are fascinating, but the real drama comes in the experiences of mothers determined (mostly) to make a good life for their babies.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

From the opening sentence, “For the first fifteen years of our lives, Danny and I lived within five blocks of each other and neither of us knew of the other’s existence.”, Potok’s magnificent story of two friends is unforgettable. When two Brooklyn boys meet through a softball game, they become fast friends, despite very different background. While Reuven comes from a Jewish family with modern, American leanings, Danny is heir-apparent to his father, a conservative Hassidic Rabbi. An exploration of fathers and sons, faith, Judaism, and a friendship that defies the odds. Call Number: BG Potok

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The second most famous Christmas story ever told. Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly businessman, learns the true meaning of Christmas after he is visited by the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future. Bah humbug! Call Number: BG Dicken

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

Filled with memories from his childhood in Alabama, this memoir from Truman Capote pays tribute to his distant cousin Miss Sook Faulk. Capote spent his childhood with distant relatives, but it was the old-maid cousin with whom he formed a special bond; making fruitcake, cutting their own christmas tree, and celebrating a tipsy yuletide (from the leftover moonshine-soaked fruitcake). A Christmas Memory is full of the tenderness and innocence of childhood. In addition to Capote’s rightful literary fame, some readers may recognize Capote, a childhood friend of Harper Lee, as the basis for Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird. Call Number: BG Capote

The Color of Water by James McBride

James McBride wrote this best selling work as a tribute to his mother, a Jewish woman who left her middleclass childhood home in Virginia to live a life of largely inner-city poverty. In the next fifty years Ruth McBride Jordan experienced two happy marriages to devoted Black men and raises twelve children. James celebrates this extraordinary woman’s love and determination while exploring his own identity, racially and culturally. Call Number: BG 921 McBride

Confessions of a Molly Mormon: Trading Perfectionism for Peace, Fear for Faith, Judging for Joy by Elona K. Shelley

“There is the ideal, and then there is reality.” Elona Shelley was discussing the observation of the Sabbath when she wrote that, but it is a tidy summary of her book. The LDS gospel presents many ideals: commandments and obligations and requirements, ways of being and examples to uphold. Trying to fulfill those ideals perfectly sometimes leads members to feel as if they are failing. Starting with a mighty change of heart she experienced, Elona explores how living the gospel within the reality of the world might not fulfill the ideal, but still brings us closer to God. Call Number: BG Shelley

Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres

A historical romance complicated not only by the Second World War but by lovers on opposing sides, Corelli’s Mandolin tells the story of Dr. Iannis and his daughter Pelagia who live on the idyllic Greek island of Cephalonia. When Pelagia’s fiancée Mandras, a gentle fisherman, joins the Greek partisans, it isn’t long before she begins a passionate love affair with invader Captain Antonio Corelli, the cultured mandolin-playing commander of the Italian garrison. Call Number: BG De Bernieres

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

When Larry and Sally Morgan, poor Westerners, move to Wisconsin to begin work at Wisconsin University during the Depression, it is the generosity of wealthy Easterner Sid, an established faculty member, and Charity, his headstrong domineering wife, which keeps them afloat. As time passes each character’s ambitions are tempered by personal choice and the unexpected trials of life. Decades later Charity reunites everyone after tragedy strikes one of the couples. The work is a touching tribute to friendship, family, and love. Call Number: BG Stegner

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

A murderer for a son and a prostitute for a sister – that is how Stephen Kumalo, a poor country pastor, finds his son Absalom and his sister Gertrude when he arrives in the troubled Johannesburg of the 1940s. A timeless story told in poetic prose in which dignity, love, and compassion triumph over crime, poverty, and racial injustice set in the heart of South Africa. Call Number: BG Paton

Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig

The Atlantic was a child’s teacup compared to the ocean that life could be,” Angus McCaskill thinks, a tidy summary of a sprawling, funny, tender book that tells the story of immigration and expansion. With his friend Rob Barclay, Angus leaves Scotland for Montana, where the two friends become sheep ranchers, as well as fathers, husbands, and men along the way. Dancing at the Rascal Fair shares thirty years of their lives with readers, in stories rich with humor, suffering, love and friendship Call Number: BG Doig

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Twelve-year-old Douglas Spaulding suddenly awakens to the world around him in the summer of 1928 in Green Town, Illinois. His new adolescent awareness takes him on a journey of first discoveries full of magic and exuberance. A joyful read, Ray Bradbury’s first novel is about childlike innocence and living in the present. Call Number: BG Bradbury

The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow

The demand for World War II munitions forces a backwoods Kentucky family to move to inner-city Detroit. As the pressures of the city mount, the family is held together by their amazing mother Gertie Nevells. Gertie’s dream is to purchase a farm and gather her family about her. However, it takes everything this powerful and compassionate matriarch (with a passion for wood sculpting and carrying on conversations with her daughter’s imaginary playmates) has to keep the family together and live by the rural values that have guided them for generations. Call Number: BG Arnow

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

Fuller describes her childhood, armed with an Uzi, in Zimbabwe during the Rhodesian Civil War of the 1970s. The daughter of white settlers, Fuller’s understated observations of a harsh African existence (the family lost three children at childbirth and endured constant illness, even hunger) combines with her descriptions of an ongoing revolt for self-rule by Africans. The ensuing violent conflict is described from a child’s unique perspective. The experience of the Fuller family (including their own racism and quirks) is told without sentimentality, and this book explores the violent beauty of Africa, the strength of family life, the human capacity for brutality, and the unique nature of individual experience. Call Number: BG 968.91 F9581

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Oxford graduate student Kivrin Engle, who specializes in medieval history, finally persuades her professor to allow her to travel to England in the middle ages, just before the beginning of the Black Plague. She falls ill right after her arrival, and is found and then cared for by members of a village. In contemporary Oxford, a new influenza plague disrupts the university, stranding Kivrin in the past. This extraordinary book is hard to classify—part history, part plague story, with a bit of science fiction and religious belief. It is sad, funny, touching, and utterly memorable

Drenched in Light by Lisa Wingate

After her dream of becoming a prima ballerina with the Kansas City ballet crumbles because of her struggles with anorexia, Julia moves back home to work as a guidance counselor at a prestigious school for performing arts. Her life begins to intertwine with Dell, a scholarship student who is a music virtuoso but struggling to fit in with her wealthy, snooty peers. As she works to overcome the tensions both within the school and her family, Julia begins to realize the impact of her decisions and where her life’s truth path lies.

The Dubliners by James Joyce

James Joyce’s collection of fifteen short stories explores 1900 Dublin, Ireland. The stories look at the lives of everyday Irish people – shop girls and students, office clerks and housemaids, businessmen and swindlers—and their everyday concerns. But within the seemingly – mundane events, Joyce brings us intelligence from the personal and often tragic lives of his characters. He intended the collection to act as a sort of lens for the people of Dublin, a way for them to examine their own lives and beliefs, but they also speak profoundly to the people of our contemporary world. Call Number: BG Joyce

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Ella lives on the tiny island called Nollop, off the coast of South Carolina, a “nation of letter writers” named after Nevin Nollop, who wrote the sentence that uses all the letters of the alphabet. (The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.) All is peaceful and happy on Nollop, until letters begin falling off the statue of Nevin Nollop. The island’s leaders decide that the missing Z is a sign: that letter is no longer a part of the alphabet. Public floggings, banishment from the island, and even death are the consequences of using a Z in written or oral communication. As more letters fall from the statue and are banned, the people come up with more and more ingenious use of language-while their entire society begins to fall apart. Quirky and intelligent, the novel makes great use of wordplay as it works towards Ella’s attempt to save every letter. Even Z. Call number: BG Dunn

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Miles Roby: single father, cook, and all-around “nice guy” is miserable but doesn’t know it. This unlikely hero of Richard Russo’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel realizes that his hometown of Empire Falls, Maine will never recover the glory days when the powerful Whiting Family ran a textile factory that employed the entire town. But he also can’t seem to leave. These days, Miles continues to run the Empire Grill, a restaurant that just manages to hold the community together. But even this outdated diner is controlled by the powerful vestiges of the town’s past: the widowed Francine Whiting, an elderly matriarch who still owns half the town, along with the Grill itself. This novel, sometimes haunting, sometimes funny, is the story of a man’s unplanned and unexpected quest to understand his family, the town he loves despite himself, and how he managed to end up doing the only thing he never wanted to do: stay in Empire Falls for the rest of his life. Call Number: BG Russo

Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard

J.G. Ballard’s semi-autobiographical novel is the story of Jamie, a young boy caught in the politics of nations and the passions of war. When World War II breaks out, Jamie, a privileged and wealthy British boy living in Shanghai, is forced into one of the many concentration camps ran by the Japanese invaders to contain European and American citizens. Separated from his parents, Jamie must learn to survive and grow up in an alien world of hunger and bloody death. Befriended by the a-moral and opportunistic former ship’s steward, Jaime wills himself to survive and becomes a new kind of boy: the tough and agile Jim. This is not the typical observation of a world at war, although battles, death, and cruelty are all present. Jim remains a child: in love with airplanes even when they drop bombs, fascinated by the adults around him, willing to do mischief whenever he can. The work is one of the most unique, and disturbing, accounts of World War II. Call Number: BG Ballard

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

Thirteen-year-olds Evie Verver and Lizzie Hood have been best friends forever. To Lizzie, whose parents are divorced, the Verver family—a charming, involved father, a glamorous older sister, and a mother who stays on the fringes of things and doesn’t push—is alluring. Seemingly perfect, even, and her friendship with Evie is that intense sort that young teenage girls have, the kind where they seem to know everything about each other. When Evie disappears, Lizzie, who saw her last, tries to figure out what happened using that knowledge she has. A novel of secrets, families, mothers, friendships and their inevitable breaking points, The End of Everything casts a mysterious, sensual spell. Call Number: BG Abbott

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Set in the fictional British county of Wessex, famously invented by Thomas Hardy as the setting for his most important novels, Far From the Madding Crowd was Hardy’s first recognized masterpiece. It tells the story of the beautiful and passionate Bathsheba Everdene, who seems destined for happiness when she inherits her uncle’s wealthy farm. Thus equipped, Bathsheba prepares to settle down to a life of relative ease, together with her trusted shepherd Gabriel Oaks. However, Bathsheba, always unconventional, sends a teasing valentine to a wealthy neighbor saying only “Marry Me.” Shocked, he promptly falls in love and proposes. The same night, however, Bathsheba meets a dashing but unscrupulous soldier named Sergeant York, and falls in love herself. The inevitable tragedy that results from this triangle is one of the most famous in literature, and established Thomas Hardy’s reputation as one of the great chroniclers of 19th century England. Call Number: BG Hardy

Father Brown: The Essential Tales by G.K. Chesterton

These short mysteries place the chubby and unprepossessing priest Father Brown in the role of detective. His knowledge, gleaned in part from years of experience taking confessions, of how human evil works, provides the basis for his skill at solving crimes. These stories are quite unrealistic, but Chesterton is serious about ideas, and those he formulates here are always clever and often thought-provoking. Call Number: BG Chesterton

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

After immigrating to Canada from India at the age of 23, Rohinton Mistry spent more than a decade as a bank clerk before writing and publishing the short story ‘One Sunday’ which proceeded to win first prize in the prestigious Canadian Hart House Literary Contest. A Fine Balance, Mistry’s second novel, is set in the India of 1975, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, defying a court order calling for her resignation, declares a state of emergency and imprisons the parliamentary opposition. These events serve as backdrop for an intricate tale of four ordinary people struggling to survive. Naive college student Maneck Kohlah, whose parents’ general store is failing, rents a room in the house of Dina Dalal, a 40-ish widowed seamstress. Dina acquires two additional boarders: hapless but enterprising itinerant tailor Ishvar Darji and his nephew Omprakash, whose father, a village untouchable, was murdered as punishment for crossing caste boundaries. These four unlikely people begin a family of sorts, and together suffer both the corruption and promise of modern India. A bittersweet novel of politics and people. Find out why Rohinton Mistry has been short-listed for the Booker Prize an astonishing three times. Call Number: BG Mistry

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Charlie Gordon has always been described as slow but with a passion for learning. When a new procedure hopes to triple his IQ, Charlie agrees to have the experimental process performed on him. The surgery and its effects change this simple, quiet man in lasting ways. The delicate prose of this touching novel moves toward a fantastic tear-jerker ending. Call Number: BG Keyes

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Reverend John Ames knows he is dying, and Gilead is written as a letter to his six year old son, a boy Ames realizes will never otherwise have any real record of his father. Writing in 1956 from his lifelong home of Gilead, Iowa, Ames’ story includes two world wars, the Great Depression, the death of his first wife and child, and his attempts to create a meaningful life through his writing (mostly of sermons). Ames also goes back in time to tell the story of the lifelong rivalry and misunderstandings between his own father and grandfather, an inter-generational conflict that continues to have repercussions in the present day. This is a magical novel, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and an unforgettable examination of fatherhood and faith. Call Number: BG Robinson

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

With the promise of housing and a job, Ah-Kim and her mother immigrate to San Francisco from Hong Kong after her father dies. The housing her Aunt Paula provides is a squalid, unheated apartment and the factory work is demanding and exhausting. Kimberly, as she’s known in America, barely has enough clothes to keep warm, let alone avoid the taunts of kids at school. It’s not flashy, but her quiet strength, intelligence, and courage as she tries to create an American life for herself and her mother infuse this novel with an uplifting sense of possibility.

Good-Bye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton

Charles Chipping is a terrible teacher – uninspiring and unloved by his students at the (somewhat) prestigious Brookfield school for boys in England. But everything changes when he meets and marries the lovely and intelligent Katherine on a summer vacation. With some of shyness finally overcome, Chips discovers a way to begin connecting with the young men in his classes, helping them to uncover the beauty of language and history. This novel is not only a sweet and sometimes tragic life story, it is also a record of the sweeping changes in England from the Victorian Era (Mr. Chips begins teaching in 1870) through the beginning of World War II. A great record of a great teacher. Call Number: BG Hilton

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

In what critics and readers have deemed a universal story, Nobel Laureate Pearl Buck creates the tale of Wang Lung, a poor peasant in rural China in the early 20th century. Describing the joys and sorrows, trials and triumphs of Wang Lung’s family, Buck powerfully examines the human condition and masterfully reveals the common denominators that link the members of the human race. Call Number: BG Buck

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Local author Shannon Hale reinvents the goose girl fairy tale in this award-winning novel. Princess Anidori is born with a word on her tongue, which means as she grows she learns, under her aunt’s encouragement, how to speak to animals. This strangeness does not sit well with the queen, so when the king dies, Princess Ani’s mother forges a marriage between her and the prince of Bayern, a neighboring country. But Ani’s betrayal by trusted people is just beginning; on her way to Bayern her friend Selia plots to kill Ani and take her place. Ani escapes, makes it to Bayern, and works as a goose girl while trying to take her future back. A story about a character working out her own fate instead of waiting to be rescued, Hale’s book is a magical tale. Call number: BG Hale

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

On the tiny Channel island of Guernsey, an impromptu literary society is formed when four friends, walking home from a dinner party, are stopped by German officers. On the spot they claim they’re walking home from a literary society meeting; their quick thought helps them avoid prison and leads to the formation of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. This society becomes a place where the group members can “almost forget, now and then, the darkness” of living in occupied England during World War II. A decade later, English writer Juliet Ashton stumbles across the stories from the society and strikes up a conversation via letters with its members. This epistolary novel tells the story of an occupation by the Germans that was first intended to be “model,” but worsened until a concentration camp was built there. Not just a war novel, it examines the way books can connect, redeem, and sometimes even save us. Call number: BG Shaffer

Guests of the Sheik by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea

In 1956, Elizabeth Fernea was a newlywed. Her husband’s field research in anthropology took the couple to a small, rural Iraqi village. In a friendly, intimate tone, Fernea tells the story of her two years there, which she begins as an American woman knowing next to nothing about Iraqi culture, language, or mores, resentful of the she is required to wear; and finishes as a close friend to the women of El Nahra. An intimate and detailed examination of the real lives women led in Iraq in the 1950s, Guests of the Sheik is an adventure story at heart, illustrating that no matter how different our cultures are, we all share the need to live vibrant lives. Call Number: BG Fernea

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

In the country of Gilead, women have no choices: not what to wear, or who to marry, or what do. They cannot own property, gain education, or have a bank account. The fertile (who are few), may bear children—but they must be given to the powerful ranking families of the dictatorship. The slightly terrifying thing is that Gilead is America, in the future, when fertility rates have plummeted and women become pawns in a game of power. The narrator, whose real name we never discover, is called Offred, and she is a handmaid: a woman who had a child before the coup and so might conceive again. She is given to a Commander’s family, where once a month she participates in the Ceremony that has become her duty.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

One day, while riding a bus in New York City, Gretchen Rubin realized that despite her fabulous life—good, kind husband, two beautiful daughters, a writing career—she wasn’t quite, exactly, thoroughly happy. Deciding that she wanted to “feel grateful for ordinary days,” she embarked on a happiness project, which was a year-long experiment in different approaches to happiness. She read the history and philosophy of the study of happiness; she identified areas to work on and resolutions within them. Then she spent 365 days exploring happiness. In this book, she writes about her experiences exploring happiness. It might just encourage you to consider your happiness, too, and how you can improve it. Call Number: BG 158 R8244

Heartbeat by Sharon Creech

Twelve-year-old Annie loves to run. At home, her parents are having a new baby and her grandfather, once a champion runner himself, is falling into dementia. Although her best friend Max, struggling with the inevitable moods of adolescence, runs to escape the problems in his life, Annie runs for the pure pleasure. Sharon Creech’s narrative poetry uses the rhythm of Annie’s stride to illustrate her journey as she adapts to changes in her everyday life. Heartbeat is an easy, delightful read. Call Number: BG Creech

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Written in three distinct voices, The Help tells the story of the reality of the racial divide in the 1960’s South. Aibileen, a black maid who is raising her seventeenth white child, finds it harder as she grows older to hold back her bitterness toward her white employeers. Minny is Aibileen’s best friend, also a maid, but never afraid to speak her mind, which means she’s out of work yet again. There’s also Skeeter, a white socialite; recently graduated from Ole Miss, she’s expected to find a husband, but has other ambitions: she wants to write a book about the experiences black maids have raising white children and taking care of white people’s homes. The maids in the community initially resist Skeeter’s idea, but when a tragedy befalls one of their friends, thirteen of them take the risk of telling of the hardship of their positions. With its trio of funny, touching, and lyrical voices, the novel seeks to illustrate the personal sacrifices that must be made for social changes to occur. Call number: BG Stockett

Hiroshima by John Hersey

When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, few could have anticipated its potential for devastation. Pulitzer prize-winning author John Hersey recorded the stories of six Hiroshima residents shortly after the explosion and published their accounts in 1946. The book offered the world a chilling and touching perspective on the effects of nuclear weapons. The work’s timelessness has earned it the status of classic and it continues to be read over half a decade after its publication. This 1985 edition includes Hersey’s tender account of his return trip to Hiroshima to find out what happened to each of his interviewees. Call Number: BG 940.5449 H439

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

In the process of writing this novel, Krauss wanted to write “a book that people would take personally.” By touching on themes we all relate to personally-the fear of dying without being seen or remembered, the way grief changes a person into someone else, the persistence of love-she accomplishes just that. The eponymous The History of Love is a novel written by Leo Gursky during the beginning of World War II; he loses it, along with Alma, the woman he loved. Unbeknownst to him, the novel is published and, decades later, translated from the Spanish by thirteen-year-old Alma’s mother, who is caught up in the grief of losing her husband to cancer. Alma searches for the origin of her name while Leo searches for a way to be seen before his death; as the novel progresses the threads of all the stories work their way together into a satisfying ending, detailing along the way the power of creativity to act as a healing force. Call Number: BG Krauss

Hobbit, or, There and Back Again (The) by J. R. R. Tolkien

The story of The Hobbit began as a tale Tolkein told his children and evolved into a book, published in 1937. Inside its pages you’ll discover the timid hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who is ordered by the wizard Gandalf to act as a smuggler on an expedition to retrieve the dwarves’ treasure, stolen by the dragon Smaug. But Bilbo’s adventure grows bigger than just a trip to a dragon. He encounters trolls, goblins, giant spiders, evil wolves called Wargs, and the strange creature Gollum, who lives alone in a cave with his Precious. Bilbo accidentally discovers Gollum’s golden ring, a fortuitous find that helps him and his companions out of several tight spots. In the end, Bilbo’s adventures going there and back again create a changed hobbit, full of confidence and self-assurance. Call Number: BG Tolkien

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Matteo Alacran is not your everyday boy. Cloned from the DNA of a powerful leader, hatched in a petri dish and grown in the womb of a cow, he’s now growing up next to a poppy field in the small cottage of Celia, the only person he’s ever known. All that changes the day he makes friends with some other children, and his remarkable coming-of-age experience begins. Surrounded by danger-most people in his community despise clones-Matt comes to love El Patron, the man who he was cloned from, even as he discovers an entirely sinister plot behind his existence. This fast-paced, adventure-filled novel will keep you reading and give you plenty of material for discussion. Winner of the National Book Award in 2002, and recognized as both a Newbery and Printz honor book, Farmer’s work deserves to be recognized. Call Number: BG Farmer

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson’s modern classic novel tells the story of two sisters, Ruth and Lucille, who have been raised partly by their grandmother, marginally by two great-aunts, and then, haphazardly and somewhat completely, by their strange and scattered aunt Sylvie. Sylvie, who “talks a great deal about housekeeping,” is nearly vagrant in her care of the sisters, a situation that grows increasingly difficult for Lucille. When family court finally intervenes, Ruth and Sylvie form a family unit of their own, vanishing into the world without Lucille. This gorgeously written novel focuses on relationships between women and the process of finding individual happiness. Call number: BG Robinson

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Meet Cassandra Mortmain: 17, living in a falling-down castle with her impoverished family in 1930s England, trying to learn how to write by keeping a journal. Meet her, because you’ll fall in love with this delightful, quick-witted, eccentric character. Dodie Smith’s classic novel tells Cassandra’s coming-of-age story. Initially disdainful of love, but still full of romantic ideas, she experiences an Austen-esque series of adventures with the wealthy American family who moves into the estate near the castle. Cassandra’s charisma pulls you through the novel as she discovers the type of woman she really wants to be. Call Number: BG Smith

I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven

I Heard the Owl Call My Name is the simple yet powerful story of a young vicar sent to live with the Kwakiutl tribe in the Pacific Northwest. Unaware of his own impending death, he finds that the tribe’s ways are being eroded by an encroaching American culture. Craven’s classic story is filled with the lush landscape of the Pacific Coast and the heartbreaking alienation felt by Native Americans caught between cultures. Call Number: BG Craven

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

HeLa cells are a necessity in medical and biotech research. These “immortal” cells—given food and warmth, they continue to grow forever—influenced the development of the polio vaccine, genetic mapping, in vitro fertilization, and numerous other scientific advancements. The cells originated in the body of Henrietta Lacks, a thirty-year-old woman suffering from cervical cancer that rapidly killed her. Taken without her knowledge or consent, her cells revolutionized modern medicine, yet for two decades her family did not know about them. Skloot’s book examines the medical repercussions of HeLa cells, but it looks more closely at the personal effects. Lacks’s family, who can’t afford health insurance, struggles to pay for medical procedures that exist because of their mother’s cells and have never been compensated for the cells. Medical ethics and legalities are examined, but in the end Skloot’s book, winner of several major literary awards, gives a face to what was previously a pile of cells growing in a test tube. Call number: BG 616.0277 Sk45

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

Did you know that Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was actually based on a true story? Philbrick takes you on an exciting tale of seafaring, awhale attack, survival, starvation and the eventual cannibalism of the crew. This National Book Award winner is a must read. Call Number: BG 910.9164 P534

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Lahiri’s debut, a lyrical representation of life in India and among immigrants in America and Britain, earned her some of the most prestigious awards in fiction, including the Pulitzer Prize and Pen/Hemingway awards. Each story considers the interplay between culture and nationality, and how people can or can’t come together. A man fears for his family in the Pakistani Civil War, and must rely on the kindness of friends; one couple mourns for a stillborn baby while another contemplates items left behind in an old house: each story has a special beauty and resonance. Lahiri demonstrates her outstanding ability to paint human experience. Call Number: BG Lahiri

The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison took the literary world by storm in 1952 when he published this National Book Award winning-novel. The first Black author to win the award, Ellison’s work follows the intellectual journey of a young Black man through the South and 1940’s Harlem. The novel’s provocative, brilliant prose is underscored by a subtle sense of humor. Perfect for any group that wants to explore social and psychological conditions. Call Number: BG Ellison

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The novel is a Victorian classic. Having been raised as an unloved orphan in her aunt’s home, Jane Eyre finds her place as governess in Thornfield Hall. Before long Jane’s life is intertwined with the mysterious characters that make up her new home, from the dark Mr. Rochester to his odd servant Grace Pool. Eventually love and drama intertwine as Jane must attempt to understand both strange happenings in the house and the desire in her own heart. Call Number: BG Bronte

John Adams by David McCullough

Famed historian and Pulitzer Prize winning author McCullough (author of 1776) explores the life of one of America’s founding fathers in this highly readable biography. McCullough details Adams’ early life and famed marriage to Abigail Smith, his role in shaping the new republic, his complex relationship and sometimes rivalry with Thomas Jefferson, his presidency, and his unerring sense of rightness and justice. A brilliant re-telling of an extraordinary American life. Call Number: BG 921 Adams

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel takes the reader into the minds and hearts of the leaders of the Blue and Gray. Based on the diaries and letters of the men themselves, Shaara brings the complex characters of Lee, Longstreet, and Chamberlain alive for the battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest three days in American history. This easily accessible novel is recommended for anyone interested in the nation’s heritage. Call Number: BG Shaara

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Anemone for abandonment, caledula for enduring the heavy cares of the world, a dahlia for instability and a geranium for melancholy: At 18, Victoria Jones has gathered a bouquet of sorrows. She’s just aged out of the foster care system and, with a string of difficult placements behind her and no one to take care of her, she begins living in a park. Using the knowledge of the Victorian language of flowers—taught to her by the one foster parent with whom she might have had a future, if things had not taken a dark turn—she plants a small garden. When a local florist notices the unique message of Victoria’s flowers, she gives her a job, starting a process that will bring Victoria both the possibility of a strong future and the necessity of facing the impact of old secrets. Call Number: BG Diffenbaugh

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

The tradition of the “last lecture” is an old one; a retiring professor gives his last remarks, with the idea of transmitting one final bit of lasting wisdom. When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, gave his last lecture, he knew it was vital to express his wisdom, as he was dying from pancreatic cancer. This book reshapes and deepens his original lecture, conveying truths about living our lives to their fullest. Call Number: BG 921 Pausch

Laughing Boy by Oliver La Farge

Oliver La Farge’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a thought provoking Western adventure, insightfully examining both the culture of the Navajo and the American Southwest at the turn of the 20th century. Through the turbulent relationship of two young Navajos, the traditional silversmith Laughing Boy and the American educated Slim Girl, La Farge examines loss of innocence, cultural collision, and the changing American Southwest. Call Number: BG La Farge

Leaving Home by Garrison Keillor

A terrific book by one of the finest humorists of our day; it is at turns hilarious and poignant. The work is a collection of the author’s Prairie Home Companion radio shorts. Lighthearted and full of warmth, Keillor celebrates the common events that fill our lives. Although the pieces are set in fictional Lake Woebegone, Minnesota, the stories remind us of our shared human experience. Call Number: BG Keillor

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines

A brilliant and beautiful novel destined to become an American classic, A Lesson Before Dying explores faith, dignity and redemption. Grant Wiggins has returned to the Louisiana plantation of his youth to teach the local schoolchildren. Jefferson is a young man from the quarter, sentenced to die for a crime he did not commit. At his grandmother’s request, Grant grudgingly accepts the task of teaching Jefferson to face death as a man. In the process, Grant struggles with his own humanity and Jefferson wrestles with his ability to see beyond himself. The novel is a heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful, look at the emotional consequences of prejudice. Call Number: BG Gaines

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Stewart

After deciding that city life as a laundress wasn’t for her, Elinore Pruitt, a young widowed mother, accepted an offer to assist with a ranch in Wyoming, work that she found exceedingly more rewarding. In this delightful collection of letters, she describes these experiences to her former employer, Mrs. Coney. Call Number: BG 978.709 ST943

Light of the Candle by Carol Pratt Brady

Most everyone knows the bible story of Daniel in the lion’s den: captured and taken away to Babylon, he remained true to the religion he learned in Jerusalem by praying three times a day. When he refused to stop, he was thrown into a den of lions, but angels sealed their mouths and saved him. What might not be known is the rest of the story. In Light of the Candle, Utah author Carol Pratt Brady brings ancient Jerusalem and Babylon to life with the stories of Daniel’s experiences.

Lincoln by Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal’s Lincoln, though not without controversy over its historical inaccuracies, provides a fascinating portrayal of the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. The novel is told almost exclusively through everyone but Lincoln’s point of view: his secretary John Hay, his political enemies Secretary of State Seward and Secretary of the Treasury Chase, a member of the group that will attempt his assassination, and his increasingly insane wife Mary Todd Lincoln. The president that emerges in Vidal’s chronicle is both mythic and achingly human. Anyone interested in the Civil War will delight in this unique retelling of the time, told from the White House instead of the battlefield. Vidal, generally acknowledged as the greatest living master of American historical fiction, tells the story of the creation of the modern United States of America. Call Number: BG Vidal

Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (The) by C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein were professors at Oxford University, and both were members of Inklings, a literary group who met on Thursday evenings to discuss their work. While Tolkein’s Christian references are subtly woven within his story, Lewis’s are more obvious in his beloved Chronicles of Narnia. The story is also influenced by Celtic, Norse, and Greek mythology. When the Pevensies, four children from England, stumble upon a connection between our world and Narnia, they discover magic, talking animals, friendly satyrs, and a battle between good and evil. Call number: BG Lewis

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book by Wendy Welch

A 2013 Boston Globe article explains that owning a bookstore has become a popular dream of many people—and has moved from number 15 to number eight on the list of “most-wanted retirement careers.” When Wendy Welch decided to open a used book store in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, she knew that fulfilling this ambition would be difficult given the economy, the proliferation of e-readers, and, of course, Amazon. Rather than just a place to buy books, she created a community resource where readers of all sorts make connections with others in the community and the reading world at large. Her book tells the funny, moving, and unique experiences she and her husband had as the established a small-town space where “people go to define themselves for themselves.” Call Number: BG 381.45 W446

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

Truly, sister of the petite and beautiful Serena Jane, has a pituitary disease that forces her to grow to extraordinarily large proportions. When their father dies, the sisters are split up, each sent to a different home in small-town Aberdeen. But Serena Jane’s beauty damages rather than redeems, and Truly steps in to raise her son. Spiked with just a touch of magic realism, the novel explores sisterhood, responsibility, relationships, and courage.Call Number: BG Baker

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

A classic and much-loved book about the four March sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy), Little Women is Alcott’s semi-autobiographical novel. When their father leaves to serve in the Civil War, each sister must discover her own inner strengths and talents in order to make her way in the world. As the pranks, mishaps, tragedies, successes and small dramas in the girls’ lives unfold, the novel explores themes such as transcendental and feminist ideals, the struggle between caring for others and developing individual happiness, the need to be focused on the inner spiritual self, and the resistance of societal expectations. Call number: BG Alcott

A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck

The book is a set of hilarious tales of an eccentric gun-toting grandmother and her two grandchildren, visiting on their annual summer hiatus from Chicago. The novel, written by the award-winning Richard Peck, is a perfect and beloved yarn for seekers of all ages. Call Number: BG Peck

Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore

A swashbuckling love story set in 17th century England: murder, forbidden love, lost heiresses, highway men, knighthood, and revenge weave together the tale of John Ridd and his love for a woman of an enemy clan, Lorna Doone. Call Number: BG Blackmore

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen

Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, Little Women, is a partly autobiographical retelling of her childhood, but only of the high points. Not intending to write a beloved classic, she wrote the book—with the features of “moral pap” found in the best sellers of the day—in order to make money for her family. In her thoroughly-researched, narrative biography of Alcott, Harriet Reisen looks behind the public face of an enormously successful writer (Alcott sold more books than Hawthorne, Emerson, or Melville) to the real woman. Alcott’s writing motivation was to provide wealth for her family, but she was a layered and complicated personality. The Woman Behind Little Women explores this personality, revealing Alcott’s imperfect, caring, intelligent identity. Call number: BG 921 Alcott

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

When Gabriel García Márquez won the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature, the committee wrote he had been chosen “for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts.” Love in the Time of Cholera perfectly reflects García Márquez’s commitment to the fantastic and magical, and his realistic depiction of life in South America. When Florentino Ariza falls deliriously in love with Fermina Daza, a beautiful student, his love will survive more than half a century, war, marriage, and, yes, even cholera. An excellent introduction to this unique author’s unforgettable world. Call Number: BG Garcia Marquez

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

An 88-year-old woman, somewhat deaf, awakens one night to the sound of music from her childhood playing loudly. The songs don’t come from any radio but play loudly and repeatedly in her head. Her ENT and psychiatrist can’t find anything wrong, but her neurologist, Dr. Oliver Sacks, eventually figures out what’s causing the music: a small stroke in the woman’s temporal lobe. That’s just one of the stories Dr. Sacks writes about in this collection of neurological case studies. Published both in medical and literary journals, Sacks’ studies present the intricacies of the human brain and its workings along with the resilience of the human spirit. Interesting, informative, and illuminating, this work will make you think about what it means to be human. Call Number: BG 616.8 Sa14

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

This novel, like all of Jane Austen’s work, is filled with witty dialogue and stinging social criticism. The plot revolves around the shy and sweet-tempered Fanny Price. Taken in by the Bertram’s, rich relatives, Fanny finds herself as an afterthought in the family’s busy world. Over time her compassion and ethics unveil her true worth, value recognized by two very different suitors. Confusion and love result in another magnificent Austen piece. Call Number: BG Austen

A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton

Alice Goodwin is watching her neighbor’s daughter when she accidentally drowns on their Midwestern dairy farm. Following a series of events that lead to Alice’s imprisonment, the Goodwins struggle to keep their family together during this time of suffering. Call Number: BG Hamilton

March by Geraldine Brooks

Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women is re-imagined in this novel by Brooks. In the original, the girls wait anxiously for letters from their father, off fighting in the Civil Warwhile in Brooks’ novel, we see the harsh reality of the actual life he leads. Based loosely on Alcott’s real father, March is a minister influenced by Emerson and Thoreau (both family friends) and struggles to maintain his faith and idealism in the face of racism and mercenary behavior from both sides of the conflict. His wife, Marmee, waiting at home with the girls, will uncover uncomfortable truths of her own when her husband ends sick and wounded at Washington Hospital. A unique look at what remains one of the most important periods, and books, in American history. Call Number: BG Brooks

Medicine River by Thomas King

Will plans to return to the small town of Medicine River, just outside a reservation in Alberta, Canada, simply for his mother’s funeral. His friend Harlen Bigbear (who is, according to Will, “like the prairie wind. You never knew when he was coming or when he was going to leave”) has other plans. The town needs a photographer, and Will is just the man for the job. He’s got other plans for Will, too, involving a single mother. Harlen and Will are the connecting threads in the novel’s narrative, which moves back and forth through the history of their friendship. A simple, gentle read, Medicine River will make you laugh as you consider your ideas about Native Americans. Call Number: BG King

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Dorothea Brooke longs to do something with her life to enrich humanity, but is limited by the boundaries placed on her by Victorian society. Dorothea struggles to find purpose through marriage and love in hopes of reaching her potential to do good. Call Number: BG Eliot

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

A companion novel to Austenland, this is the story of Charlotte Kinder, whose husband has recently taken up with another woman. She escapes to Pembrook Park—a sort of amusement park for the extreme Jane Austen fan—for a two-week vacation with corsets, balls, and attentive men. Her vacation’s (plotted) romance includes a mystery, which is all fun and games until a real, dead body shows up in a Gothic ruin. As she struggles to solve the mystery, Charlotte just might figure out some truths about herself as well. Call Number: BG Hale

Midwives by Christopher Bohjalion

Connie Danforth narrates the story of her mother, Sibyl—a rural Vermont midwife, who was tried for murder for performing an emergency Caesarean section on a woman that may have still been alive. Sibyl must not only face the charges laid against her but the hostility of traditional doctors and the community. In time the truth of what really happened comes to light. Call Number: BG Bohjalion

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Vanderpool’s Newbery-winning novel is set in the town of Manifest Kansas, “a place too far away to ever get back to, a place too good to be real. A place one was proud to call home” during the 1930’s. It tells the story of Abilene Tucker, whose father Gideon has sent her back to live in Manifest for the summer, thinking she’ll be safer there than living a drifter lifestyle with him. Abilene discovers the decades-old mystery of The Rattler along with new friends and a boxful of old objects that lead her to Gideon’s history. Weaving the history of prohibition, orphan trains, Spanish influenza, coal mining and World War One with the lifestyle of a small Midwestern town, the story reads like an instant classic. It manages to combine what is endearing about childhood—mystery, adventure, the power in an object, the pull of story and that deep-seated need for affection and a place to call your own—into a sweet and satisfying experience. Call number: BG Vanderpool

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

The book is the true story of Dr. Paul Farmer, a renowned infectious-disease specialist. In his quest to diagnose and cure diseases, Farmer traveled to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. Farmer dedicated his life to combating disease and poverty. Many of his ideas are considered innovative solutions to worldwide cycles of suffering. Call Number: BG 921 Farmer

Mrs. Mike by Benedict Freedman

Mrs. Mike is the true story of Katherine Mary O’Fallon, a young Irish girl from Boston, who marries Canadian Mountie Sergeant Mike Flannigan, who is priest, doctor and magistrate to all in the wilderness of the North Woods of Canada. Extremely popular, the novel has won the hearts of millions for its depiction of a young love’s journey to maturity. Call Number: BG Freedman

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Willa Cather published her masterpiece My Antonia in 1918 to critical acclaim. Narrator Jim Burden tells the story beginning when, as a small boy, he left his life in civilized Virginia and traveled to the edge of the Nebraska frontier. Jim remembers his childhood friend – the vivacious and spirited Antonia, an immigrant child from Bohemia, and how their own lives, families, and friends were shaped by the beauty and cruelty of the Great Plains. Universal themes of death, youth, and friendship have enthralled readers for the 90 years this novel has now been in print. My Antonia captures the settling of the American frontier as no other work of fiction ever has. Call Number: BG Cather

My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

First published in 1901, Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career remains a remarkable portrait of a sixteen-year-old girl who dreams of becoming a renowned author. Sybylla Melvyn, Franklin’s semi-autobiographical narrator, must struggle against drought and isolation in the Australian outback if she wants to realize her ambitions. Sybylla’s description of life on small hardscrabble farms contrasts sharply with the idealized vision of pioneer and farm life so prevalent today, and her resolve to make a career despite the odds seems especially remarkable in this harsh environment. A marriage with wealthy neighbor Harry Beecham presents a possible escape from poverty and toil for Sybylla, and the resultant love story, combined with Sybylla’s unique voice, has continued to intrigue readers for more than a century. Call Number: BG Franklin

My Dream of Stars: From Daughter of Iran to Space Pioneer by Anousheh Ansari

Ansari was the first Muslim woman to travel into space. In her memoir, she tells the story of her early years in Tehran, her immigration to American, and the financial successes that allowed her to enter the Russian space program. She also writes about her time in space, which was spent not as a professional astronaut, but as an observer, so her experiences are more personal than scientific. A fast and touching read that might inspire you to follow your own dreams.

My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Remen

In My Grandfather’s Blessings, author Rachel Remen proves that it is possible to embrace spirituality even as a doctor continually facing the realities of life and death. Having grown up emotionally divided between the religious devoutness of her rabbi grandfather and the academic world of her parents, Remen shares with her readers the lessons she learned as she consolidated these two views and embraced healing. Call Number: BG 296.72 R282

The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant

This short story by Guy de Maupassant tells of a poor woman named Mathilde who wishes passionately for money, splendid clothes, and beautiful jewelry. When her husband receives an invitation to an important ball, Mathilde is frustrated by the fact that she has nothing to wear. She decides to ask a rich friend to loan her a diamond necklace so that she will not look out of place amid so many rich and fancy people. However, the night takes a turn for Mathilde and her husband when they suddenly realize that she has lost the necklace and must find a way to make it up to her friend. Call Number: BG Maupassant

No Man is an Island by Thomas Merton

A Catholic Trappist monk from Kentucky, Thomas Merton became recognized worldwide for his insightful view of human spirituality. Author of over fifty books and numerous essays, Merton is loved for his insight into the human condition. No Man is an Island contains sixteen of Merton’s essays on human spirituality and is recommended for anyone looking to enrich their lives. Call Number: BG 284.482 M558

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Written as a serialized novel in Charles Dickens’ Household Words in 1855, Gaskell’s classic novel North and South explores issues of industrialization, social injustice, and poverty in northern England. When Margaret Hale’s father gives up his role as a priest in the Church of England after doubting its leadership, the family leaves the pastoral, southern town of Helstone for the industrialized, northern town of Milton. Here Margaret discovers a sharp contrast to her previous experiences, caused by the poverty and difficult working conditions of the factory laborers. She also meets John Thornton, the powerful owner of a cotton mill. Thorton’s mill is facing a striking labor force, while Margaret’s family is also in upheaval caused by her mother’s illness and her brother Fredrick’s legal troubles brought on by a mutiny. The developing romance between Margaret and John, full of antagonism and misunderstanding, binds the story’s varying topics into a cohesive whole. Call number: BG Gaskell

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All by Alan Gurganus

In a distinctly opinionated voice, ninety-five-year-old Lucy Marsden narrates the story of her life in the novel The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. At the age of fifteen, Lucy marries a fifty-year-old Civil War captain who still suffers from war related trauma. Her story is interlaced with vignettes about her childhood, parents, and best friend, a slave named Castalia. She addresses the major issues which confronted the South of her generation including slavery, the position of women in society, and the effects of war on the United States. Call Number: BG Gurganus

Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen by Bob Greene

They began almost immediately, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor: the people of a tiny town in Nebraska started feeding the soldiers who came through North Platte by the trainful. A small canteen sprang up at the train depot where the soldiers briefly stopped – for ten or fifteen minutes, they were treated to food, hot coffee, cake, fruit, and hospitality. The community around North Platte joined in the project, and volunteers made sure that the soldiers on every train, from 5:00 a.m. until midnight, were greeted, fed, and encouraged. “I would say that the majority of men on the battlefields knew exactly what North Platte was,” one soldier explains. “They would talk about it like it was a dream.” Chicago Times columnist Bob Greene explores this little-known story from World War II, showing how the kindness of strangers changed lives. This touching read will remind you of the goodness that’s inherent in people and the comfort in good food and a smile. Call Number: BG 978.282 G8303

On the Beach by Nevil Shute

Written during the height of the Cold War, Nevil Shute’s On the Beach is a haunting reflection on the end of humanity. In the wake of a colossal nuclear war, Australia is still alive, but slowly anticipating the arrival of radioactive fallout from the Northern hemisphere. Still, life must go on much as before – babies must be cared for, people fall in love, and everyone makes their own choices about the coming end. On the Beach changed how the world thought about the threat of nuclear war, and would eventually be made into an award-winning film starring Gregory Peck: the first American movie to premiere in the Soviet Union. Call Number: BG Shute

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Falsely accused of being a spy for the Germans during World War II, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov is sentenced to serve time in the Soviet gulag system. As the title indicates, the book describes a typical day experienced by Ivan in his work camp. Working in temperatures well below freezing, the inmates struggle to stay warm, dream of being released, and always seem to hunger for a scrap of bread to eat or a cigarette to smoke. In simple prose, the author (who himself served time in Stalin’s labor camps before going on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature) graphically describes what it was like to try to maintain one’s dignity in the face of communist oppression. Call Number: BG Solzhenitsyn

The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty

The Optimist’s Daughter begins when seventy-one-year-old Judge McKelva goes to the hospital complaining of a problem with his vision. His daughter, Laurel, becomes anxious about her father’s health and hurries to his side. Upon her arrival in New Orleans, Laurel must deal with her father’s new wife, Fay, who contributes to Judge McKelva’s lack of recovery and eventual death. As she buries her father, Laurel is forced to consider the weighty topics of life and death, in addition to the balance between the past, present, and future. Call Number: BG Welty

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

From 1914 to 1931, Danish aristocrat Baroness Karen Blixen owned and operated a coffee plantation in Kenya. After the plantation failed, she returned to Europe and began to write under the pen name Isak Dinesen. Out of Africa reads like a collection of stories in which she adheres to no strict chronology, gives no explanation of the facts of her life, and apologizes for nothing. Call Number: BG 967.62 D612

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

After years of work with Minnesota Public Radio, storyteller Leif Enger weaves together a beautiful expression of love. The novel follows a young family in a heroic trek to find their fugitive brother. Although none of the family finds what they expected, Enger blends faith and hope in a story of family, sacrifice, and religion. The writing is delightful and the story meaningful. Call Number: BG Enger

The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas

In Depression-era Harveyville, Kansas, a group of women form the Persian Pickle Club, erstwhile quilting group turned sisterhood. The newest “Pickle,” Rita, has just moved to Kansas from Denver, and she’s a little bit different from the rest of the group. She’s a big-city girl who doesn’t know the details of living a farm life, let alone quilting, but Queenie Bean, the group’s youngest member and the novel’s narrator, strikes up a friendship with her anyway. When Rita—an aspiring writer—tries to solve the murder of group member Ella’s husband, she discovers that the women aren’t as small-town as they might seem.

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Life in the small town of Holt, Colorado, rings true in this rich, unsentimental novel that explores both the complexities of the natural world and human interaction. The novel’s characters struggle with realistic problems in a compassionate ode to the beauty of imperfect humanity. A high school teacher struggles to raise his two boys and deal with his disintegrating marriage. His wife struggles with depression and the guilt she feels as she faces a future that might not include her husband and children. The boys try to understand the pain and violence that accompanies their coming of age in the world. Two brothers live a solitary existence on their ranch, feeling more comfortable with cattle than people. Eventually, the struggles of a young pregnant teenager bring their stories together and testify of the power of community and human decency. Call Number: BG Haruf

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Among the greatest American novels, James’ Portrait of a Lady details the fictional Isabel Archer’s life and choices: her fight to retain intellectual freedom, and her search for fulfillment and purpose in an age when women seldom searched for any of those things. Independent and unconventional, the American-born Isabel has grown up haphazardly: left to read, think, and become what she pleases, a unique upbringing for a girl at the end of the 1800s. Unlike the majority of her compatriots, she chooses a trip to Europe and a tour of great art and countries with her wealthy aunt over an attractive marriage proposal. While in Europe, the alluring Gilbert Osmond (who seems Isabel’s perfect match), the mysterious and elegant Madame Merle, and the convent-schooled girl Pansy will all alter her life and change her dreams and desires. A fascinating portrait of one of literature’s most memorable heroines. Call Number: BG James

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

Who would have thought that a madman in an insane asylum would have been one of the greatest contributors to the Oxford English Dictionary? Although it sounds like fiction, the book it is a true story of the collaboration between the OED scholar James Murray and the incarcerated Dr. Minor (an American Civil War surgeon). This amazing story is both tragic and inspirational—a tribute to the human spirit. Call Number: BG 423 W7217

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

When she arrives at Manderley, the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter discovers not all is how she expected. Her husband’s first wife, the seemingly-brilliant, talented, and beautiful Rebecca, haunts both the house itself and its occupants. Attempting to establish her marriage and her place within the house, Mrs. de Winter is challenged at every turn by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. Only when Maxim is able to tell his second wife the truths about his first can this gothic story come to its chilling fruition. Call number: BG du Maurier

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Time and Place by Terry Tempest Williams

During two decades — 1940-1960—the U.S. government conducted secret nuclear experiments in the Nevada deserts that caused a series of cancer clusters in Nevada, Arizona, and Utah in the 1980’s. Williams’ family was all affected, leaving her “the family matriarch at age 34.” In Refuge she draws connections between her mother’s death and the flooding of the Great Salt Lake. Her writing is moving, powerful, and lyrical; it will leave you both heartsore and hopeful. Call number: BG 917.9242 W6758

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

This quietly magnificent novel tells the story of Stevens, a Victorian butler born into the wrong era. The perfect gentlemen, Stevens is an ideal butler to his employer Lord Darlington just prior to and during World War II. But politics and people stand between Stevens and his ideals of keeping the perfect home: the Nazis are gaining power, domestic staff is harder to find, and the new housekeeper, Miss Kenton, is a strong woman who threatens Stevens’ tidy world and reined-in emotions. As Salman Rushdie comments, The Remains of the Day is “a story both beautiful and cruel.” A modern masterpiece of love and regret. Call Number: BG Ishiguro

The River Between Us by Richard Peck

Winner of the 2004 Scott O’Dell Award for historical fiction, A River Between Us is a masterful tale of mystery and war. 1861 brings changes for young Tilly Pruitt. The nation stands at the brink of war and the only boy in the family, Tilly’s brother Noah, wants to join the fight. That leaves Tilly with her mother and sister struggling to make ends meet. That is, until the elegant Delphine and her dark traveling companion arrive on a steamboat. Rumors fly throughout the town about the odd couple, wondering if the companion is a slave and if the beautiful Delphine could be a Southern spy. The Pruits become entangled in the suspicion when they take the pair into their home. The result is a marvelous novel about the lasting influence one person can have on another. Call Number: BG Peck

Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley

“Not silly sweethearts’ love but the love that makes you and keeps you whole”—that is the sort of love that roses need to grow healthy blossoms and, in Robin McKinley’s retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, it’s the sort Beauty is able to give. When her merchant father’s ships are lost at sea, the family moves to a tiny cottage far away from anything they know. Rose Cottage, it’s called, but the roses are bedraggled and weak until Beauty starts to nurture them. Then she is called on for an entirely different sort of nurturing. While it follows the usual Beauty-and-the-Beast plot line, Rose Daughter arrives at a very different thematic place, taking a thorny, magical, and slightly-edgy route to the resolution. Call Number: BG McKinley

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

“I am a runner. That’s what I do. That’s who I am. Running is all I know, or want, or care about.” The runner in question, 16-year-old Jessica Carlisle, is her high school track team’s star 400-meter racer. But when she loses her leg in an accident, her identity seems to be amputated as well. What is life worth to a person who lives to run but only has one leg? She discovers that finding the worth in life is a little bit like running: the spark has to come from her, but there’s support if she can reach out and accept it.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

When her mother Camille—former Onion Queen of 1951, with a habit of standing in the street to blow kisses at passing cars—is killed, CeeCee Honeycutt is just about on her own. After all, her father isn’t about to step in and take care of her. Luckily, CeeCee’s long-lost great-aunt Tootie shows up in Ohio just hours after the funeral. She whisks her great-niece off to live with her and her maid Oletta in Savannah. Under the care and laughter of her new-found family of southern women, CeeCee discovers that mothers can come in many forms. Call Number: BG Hoffman

Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan

Set in contemporary Africa, the stories in this collection revolve around the children of poverty: how they suffer, or survive, or are damaged, or just try to understand forces much larger than themselves. Children are sold into slavery; a daughter must decide between education and prostitution; religious differences force the implosion of a family. Yet, as the stories explore the grim reality of contemporary Africa, they offer beauty in language, a sort of redemption through storytelling. Call Number: BG Akpan

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Burnett’s classic is about a young girl who is anything but sweet. When the reader meets Mary, we can be forgiven for describing her as a brat. Tragedy followed by banishment to a neglected English estate does nothing to improve her character. It will take an equally unpleasant cousin, a young laborer, and a hidden garden to help restore the many unhappy characters in this novel, including Mary herself. Another childhood classic that deserves a re-reading by any adult! Call Number: BG Burnett

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Kate Morton is the queen of atmospheric, compelling novels that revolve around secrets, and The Secret Keeper is no exception. Avoiding her siblings by hiding in a tree house during a family party, 16-year-old Laurel witnesses her mother kill a man who appears to be an intruder. But fifty years later, when she is an accomplished actress and her mother is near death, Laurel rediscovers questions she has about what she witnessed. Moving through England during World War II, the Blitz, the 60’s and beyond, the story flashes between Laurel’s perspective, her mother’s, and the murdered man’s. A mystery set within a history within an epic family saga, The Secret Keeper explores how ambitions and hopes shape a myriad of lives. Call Number: BG Morton

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Kidd

Ten years after the death of her mother, all14 year-old Lily Owens has left of her is a mysterious picture of a Black Madonna, with the words “Tiburon, South Carolina” written on the back. After a run-in with the law, Lily and her Black nanny Rosaleen must flee the police and Lily’s abusive father to find the answers Lily has been seeking. With the backdrop of Civil Rights transition occurring around them, the greatest change takes place in Lily and Rosaleen as they discover much more than they expected about love, friendship, and family. Call Number: BG Kidd

Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter

Taken from a moral allegory published in Latin in the fifteenth century, Porter wrote that the title of her novel symbolizes “the ship of this world on its voyage to eternity” and is an exploration of the darker side of the human condition. The novel is set in the summer of 1931, on board a cruise ship bound for Bremerhaven, Germany. The passengers, a motley crew including a Spanish noblewoman, a drunken German lawyer, an American divorcee, a pair of Mexican Catholic priests, and a myriad of others are forever changed by their experiences on this voyage of passion, treachery and human folly. Call Number: BG Porter

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Rachel Carlson was known for writing beautiful nature descriptions until this 1962 novel burst into the national scene. Its powerful scenes exposed the nation to the dangers of DDT, at the time a common form of pesticide. Relentlessly attacked by the chemical industry, Carson was vindicated as her claims stood up to scientific and political scrutiny. In the next few years the novel and the outcry it generated brought about the banning of DDT. The work remains a classic for those interested in ethical stewardship of natural resources. Call Number: BG 623.9 C23

Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters by Robert Pinsky

While working as the US poet laureate, Robert Pinsky created the Favorite Poems Project, a collection of American citizens’ favorite works, many of them read by the citizens themselves on the project’s website. Here, he again gathers poems, but this time as examples. Whether you are a writer of poetry or a reader, a poetry expert or novice, this book will introduce you to accessible poems that act both as literary works and as examples of writing possibilities. Divided into sections such as “form” and “dreaming things up,” the collection works in a myriad of ways, helping readers understand poetry better as they brim with new ideas for writing their own.

Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball

A family reunion on a South Carolina plantation sparked Edward Ball’s interest in his family’s slave holding past. As Ball began to research, he discovered his family owned more than twenty rice plantations in South Carolina. Slaves provided the manpower to run the plantations, including some slaves brought over by successful slave trading Ball ancestor. In an attempt to understand this past, Ball traveled to Bunce Island, a fortress in Sierra Leone where captured slaves were loaded for the journey across the Atlantic, and tracked down some of the seventy-five to a hundred thousand living relatives from mixed Black and White ancestry. Ball’s work adds an interesting modern perspective regarding the effects of a shameful American institution. Call Number: BG 975.7915 B21

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

This retelling of the Russian fairy tale “The Snow Maiden” is also a historical novel. It is the story of Jack and Mabel, who’ve left their fairly safe but exceedingly sad life in 1920’s Pennsylvania for the Alaskan frontier. Sad because, except for one stillborn, they never were able to have children, and all of the family reminders around them (the nieces and nephews, the new babies, the excited couples marrying) were just too much. Of course, life in Alaska is hardly easy either, with the short growing season, fierce winters, and isolation. But then, one night of clean snow and happiness, Jack and Mabel build a snow girl, dress her with mittens, a hat, and a scarf. In the morning, they wake to find the knitted clothing gone and a dead rabbit next to the decimated snow girl. Then they find a girl, Faini, wandering in the forest, and their sadness starts to melt away.

Someone by Alice McDermott

The subject of Someone is life itself, ordinary life with its difficulties and joys. The life in question belongs to Marie Commeford, who grows up in (and eventually away from) Brooklyn. Moving forward and backward through time, the story takes us through Marie’s life, from her pre-depression childhood in New York City through her adult years. Family happiness and strife; the promise and disappointment of romance; motherhood and work and friendship: the intimate, quiet details of a human being living an unremarkable life show just how remarkable humanity really is.

The Speckled Monster by Jennifer Lee Carrell

Smallpox was a dreaded disease in the early Eighteenth century. For example, an epidemic in Boston from 1721 to 1722 infected 6,000 of the city’s 11,000 inhabitants (about 800 died). Jennifer Carrell, a writer for Smithsonian, creates a fictional rendering of two proponents of vaccination. One, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu takes her cause all the way to King George I. The other, Dr. Zabdiel Bylston, faced public opposition in Boston for his early vaccination work, learned from local slaves. Some outraged citizens even tried to kill him when he continued to work on the disease. However, their work revolutionized medical practices and its effect continues to this day. Read about their courageous efforts in this accessible book. Call Number: BG 614.521 C232

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

In the small community of Merced, California, reside thousands of Hmong refugees from the highlands of Laos; among them is the Lee family, whose youngest daughter Lia suffers from severe epilepsy. Anne Fadiman attempts to shed light on Hmong culture and understand the seemingly irreconcilable differences between western medicine and the Hmong in this poignant narrative. Call Number: BG 306.461 F126

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

Established in 1928, The Gold Star Mothers Organization helps mothers whose children have been killed in war. During the 1930s, some of these mothers traveled to France to see the graves of their sons, killed in World War I. Smith’s novel explores this little-known historical tidbit. In 1931, Cora Blake receives an invitation to lead a group of five mothers in their travels to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France. Friendships form during the journey, as well as tensions based on race and class. A warm and hopeful novel, A Star for Mrs. Blake illustrates the lingering consequences of war on survivors.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

A crash-test dummy. (What happens to a body when it’s in a car crash?) A subject in an Army Ordinance Department experiment. (Just how, exactly, do bomb shells affect human flesh?) An anthropological assistant. (What happens to a body as it decomposes in, say, a block of cement?) Those are just a few examples of how a body can be useful after dying, the main thread in Mary Roach’s book. Sounds a little creepy, but Roach manages to write about all of the post-mortem possibilities with a dry sense of humor that will leave you grinning, not grossed out. Call Number: BG 611 R53

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

Once labeled the “Prairie Pulitzer,” The Stone Diaries outlines the life of Daisy Fletts Goodwill from conception to death. Daisy finds life, although lacking any extraordinary accomplishment, as a quest for contentment in the face of continual loss. Call Number: BG Shields

Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr

Trudi, a dwarf librarian, tells about the lives of citizens in the small German town of Burgdorf from World War I into the 1950s. In doing so, Trudi learns the secret that unites all humans—that of being different. This book is for anyone who has ever felt they don’t fit in. Call Number: BG Hegi

Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Novelist Alice Hoffman is a breast cancer survivor, in remission for nearly two decades. Here, she writes the book she wishes she’d had during her diagnosis and treatment. “In many ways I wrote Survival Lessons for myself,” she explains, “to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that’s all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss.” Not a book about cancer, Survival Lessons is instead about choices and how they affect our perspective. You’ll finish it uplifted and revitalized, ready to see what choices you can make to improve your own life.

Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck

In this sequel to Cannery Row, Steinbeck explores the lives of a group of California alcoholics, whores, and idlers as they form bonds of affection among themselves and with a biologist in post-World War II Monterey. As always, Steinbeck, one of America’s great writers, treats his material with a tenderness found in few other authors. Atlantic Monthly called it a “comedy—bawdy, sentimental, and good fun.” Call Number: BG Steinbeck

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

This beloved work has reemerged as one of the premier books of the twentieth century. Hurston, relying on her background recording folk history, tells the story of Janie Crawford, an articulate African-American woman in the 1930s. The spunky and unforgettable Janie narrates her quest for identity, three marriages (one of which resulted in her being accused of murder), and a journey to her roots.Call Number: BG Hurston

These is My Words: the Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine 1881-1901 by Nancy E. Turner

Written as a diary, this novel is Sarah’s story. At 18, in 1881, she leaves her home in New Mexico to begin a new life on the Arizona frontier. Her journal starts out rough—full of misspellings and awkward sentences—but (with the assistance of a pile of books she discovers) becomes smooth, confident, and powerful, illustrating how her experiences change her. Sarah faces down marauding Native Americans, survives a marriage to an abusive husband, experiences flood, heat, drought, and rattlesnakes, and manages to create a strong, good life, nevertheless. Based on the journals of one of the author’s ancestors, the story is continued by Sarah’s Quilt and The Star Garden. Call number: BG Turner

They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell

Set during the 1918 flu epidemic, Maxwell captures the psychological complexity of family relations in a small Midwestern town. Elizabeth Morison is the center of life for her husband James and their two boys, Benny and Robert. Her importance, brought into focus by a sudden tragedy, is compassionately displayed through the view of each of the male figures. Maxwell’s sensitive and delicate prose is a tribute to all mothers. Call Number: BG Maxwell

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe’s masterpiece is considered the first masterpiece written in English by an African author. There are more than eight million copies of the novel in print worldwide. The work explores the cultural collision of Western influences and traditional Nigerian tribal practices. As the story unveils it exposes a shared humanity that transcends national boundaries. Call Number: BG Achebe

Three by Annie Dillard

Includes Dillard’s classic memoirs A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, The Writing Life, and An American Childhood. Renowned for her lyrical writing style, and ability to make even abstract topics interesting, these are three of Dillard’s best known works. In Tinker Creek, Dillard examines nature and life in and around her Virginia residence. Her reflection on people and places is a journey of discovery for the reader. An American Childhood is a tribute to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA and her unforgettable mother, and serves as a celebration of the joy and discovery of childhood. And finally, in The Writing Life, Dillard describes the pain and excitement of creation. Read one or all three of these brilliant books! Call Number: BG 818 D581

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A terrible crime splits a Southern community along racial lines. However, Atticus Finch, a courageous white lawyer, refuses to sacrifice his principles to public demand. The consequences of his choice affect both his family and the town. This tale of courage, strength, and love is told through the insightful and charming voice of Atticus’ daughter Scout. The novel is a worldwide classic with more than 30 million copies in print. Call Number: BG Lee

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

With typical Virginia Woolf genius, this novel focuses on the drama of the everyday and the mysteries of time and human bonds. Woolf poignantly follows the complex lives of an English family and picks them up again after a ten year hiatus in order to explore the effects of time. Call Number: BG Woolf

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Sweet, tender, endearing; realistic, compassionate, heartbreaking. There are many words to describe this novel, but they can all be condensed into just two: so good. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a classic coming-of-age novel, set in New York in the early 1900’s. Francie Nolan is eleven when the novel opens, living in Brooklyn in a tenement house. Her father is an alcoholic but her mother is a strong woman who makes sure her family is provided for. Francie is a quiet, imaginative child, passionate about learning, reading, and writing, but life doesn’t bring her the things she wants. As the story progresses you experience the heartbreaks and triumphs, ambitions and mistakes along with Francie as she, like the Tree of Heaven, flourishes in the world’s stony soil. Call Number: BG Smith

True Grit by Charles Portis

People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood,” begins the novel True Grit; incredible, perhaps, but fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross did just that. When her father is shot down in Fort Smith, Arkansas—his horse and his $150 bank roll stolen as well—she heads out into Indian Territory in the company of the meanest U.S. Ranger she can find, Rooster Cogburn. Her goal, of course, is to find Tom Chaney, the man who shot her father, and make sure he is punished for his deed. The outcome of her adventures is the very definition of “grit.” Mattie’s story is by turns funny, sad, heart-pounding and satisfying, a read you won’t soon forget. Call Number: BG Portis.

Typhoon by Joseph Conrad

This is a simple, well-told story of the sea, and while the plot is about a steamer ship called the Nan-Shan and its encounter with a typhoon in the South China Seas, the heart of the book revolves around its main character Captain McWhirr. His lack of imagination gives him the ability to deal calmly with the crisis and bring the vessel through the typhoon. Conrad continues his tradition of exciting psychological fiction against the backdrop of the raging sea. His characters are described with elegant humor and sharp observation of human nature. Call Number: BG Conrad

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose

Stephen Ambrose, author of Band of Brothers and D-Day, takes on the story of real-life adventurer Meriwether Lewis. Ambrose records Lewis’s friendship with Thomas Jefferson, his interaction with native tribes, the expedition’s battles with the environment and disease, their triumphant return and the aftermath of the journey. Drawing from the journals of members of the “Corps of Discovery” as well as Ambrose’s own experiences following their trail, Undaunted Courage is an entertaining, compelling, and utterly readable account of this epic in American history. Call Number: BG 973.46 AM185

Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joy by Susan Spencer-Wendel

At 44, Susan Spencer-Wendel was an award-winning journalist writing for the Palm Beach Post, with three kids and a happy marriage. One day, her left hand started shriveling; it was the onset of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, although she wouldn’t be officially diagnosed for more than a year. Once she knew the name of her illness and what it would entail—an irreversible weakening of her body’s muscles—she made a choice to seek happiness and fulfilling experiences in whatever time she had left. She quit her job and planned seven vacations to take with the seven most important people in her life; she made scrapbooks with a lifetime’s worth of photos, created a backyard haven, and wrote. The story she tells is sad, of course; we know she is dying. But it is not an examination of death. Instead, it explores living life with purpose, intent, and presence, surrounded by friends and family and actively seeking out joy. Call Number: BG Spencer-Wendel

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

When she receives a phone call explaining that her great aunt Esme is being released from Cauldstone Hospital—and needs somewhere to live—Iris Lockhart is stunned: she didn’t know she had a great aunt. Esme was placed in a mental hospital at the age of sixteen and has lived there, forgotten and written out of her family’s story, for sixty years. Although Iris enjoys her solitary life, she can’t bear to put Esme in the miserable halfway house, so she takes her home with her for a trial weekend. The only living person who once knew all the secrets is Kitty, Esme’s sister and Iris’s grandmother, but since she is suffering from Alzheimer’s, she is only able to express regrets in fragments. Moving between Esme’s memories in 1930’s India and Iris’s contemporary life in Edinburgh, the story is crafted with tension, rich characterization, and a lyrical writing style. Call Number: BG O’Farrell

Waiting by Ha Jin

“Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu.” Thus begins Ha Jin’s National Book Award-winning novel, Waiting, a tale the Chicago Tribune calls “a simple love story that transcends cultural barriers.” Seeking to divorce his wife from an arranged marriage, Lin returns to his village each summer in hopes that he will eventually be able to marry the educated, modern woman he loves. Each summer, however, his wife agrees with the divorce only to back out at the last minute. Call Number: BG Jin

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Weaving from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Tail (AT) takes hikers through 2,100 miles of mountains and forests, the longest swath of nature in America. Bill Bryson started on the trail at its southern-most point in Georgia with the goal of hiking the entire length. Then he wrote about his adventures on the trail. A travel memoir, a commentary on small-town America, and a detailed observation of nature, man, and how they interact, A Walk in the Woods will also make you laugh. Come along on Bryson’s AT adventures to discover “the amazing complex delicacy of the woods.” Call Number: BG 917.404 B848

Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton

Mattie Rigsbee is the spunky center of this funny story. At 78, Mattie wishes for grandchildren, but her kids won’t seem to settle down and deliver the goods. Just as she’s beginning to slow down, teenage delinquent Wesley Benfield enters her life, in need of good cooking and grandmotherly affection. Despite the concern of family and friends, Wesley and Mattie forge a bond in this endearing comic novel. Call Number: BG Edgerton

Watership Down by Richard Adams

This classic tale uses the playful, seemingly simple story of a group of Berkshire rabbits as a text to explore human nature. The rabbits are forced to flee when their traditional home is destroyed by development. In the course of their romping adventure, the rabbits skirt danger and become acquainted with a world of myth and culture. The book is written using the dialect and folk history of the English countryside. Published in 1972, the work has been cherished ever since. Call Number: BG Adams

The Watsons go to Birmingham by Christopher Curtis

Kenny Watson’s parents are fed up with his older brother Byron, who is running with the wrong crowd and developing a talent for getting in trouble. They pack up Byron, Kenny and little sister Joetta and head to Birmingham, Alabama. Instead of finding the slower pace and quiet lifestyle they had hoped for, the Watsons witness one of the most chilling events of the Civil Rights struggle. Kenny’s narration is both funny and moving as he intertwines his own story of family love and endurance with the tragic 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist church. Call Number: BG Curtis

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

As a Creole heiress, Antoinette Cosway lives a life of leisure until she leaves the Caribbean to England. There, she mingles in high society before her marriage leads her to become the crazed Mrs. Rochester. The novel’s question is whether Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre is the victim or the villain? Read the haunting prequel from Mrs. Bertha Rochester’s point of view. Call Number: BG Rhys

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

When her beloved grandfather dies, Kit Tyler is orphaned, and so must sail from Barbados to the village of Wethersfield in the colony of Connecticut. The restrictive rules of Puritan New England do not mix well with Kit’s free spirit, and she gets in trouble often with her uncle Matthew and the villagers. When she strikes up a friendship with an old woman named Hannah—thought to be a witch—she must confront the society’s narrow moral views. Praised for its vivid recreation of colonial America, this book won the 1959 Newbery Medal.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin

Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic fantasy masterpiece reveals the land of Earthsea, a landscape made of hundreds of islands. Here, dragons roam and magic is used by wizards to keep good and evil in balance. Like Tolkein’s Middle-earth, Earthsea is built with an ancient, detailed history and unique language that creates an entirely new world for readers to explore. In A Wizard of Earthsea, the first book in the series, you will meet the wizard Ged, who starts the story as an overconfident boy wizard and becomes, as he survives his training and daunting experiences, a master. Call Number: BG LeGuin

Women Write: A Mosaic of Women’s Voices edited by Susan Cahill

Susan Cahill, author of three works of nonfiction, was asked to bring together a sampling of women writing. The result is an anthology that introduces readers to many of the finest women authors of all time. Included in its pages are two Nobel laureates and many of the most beloved Twentieth century female authors. Enjoy Edith Wharton, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Zora Neale Hurston, Sandra Cisneros, and a host of others all collected in one book. Call Number: BG 820.8 C1197

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Timothy Egan won the 2006 National Book Award for this harrowing account of the longest and largest environmental disaster in American history: the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression. Egan’s portraits of the families who stayed behind are sobering and far less familiar than those who left for California and the West to escape the devastation. Egan interviews the surviving families to tell of towns depopulated to this day, a mother who watched her baby die of “dust pneumonia,” and farmers who gathered tumbleweed as food for their cattle and, eventually, for their children. Call Number: BG 978.032 EG14

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace, and her new friend Calvin O’Keefe travel through space, with the help of Mrs. Who, Mrs, Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, to find her father, who has vanished. They find him imprisoned by the powerful IT on the planet of Camazotz, where all people are identical. As much an exploration of good and evil, the consequence of individuality, and the power of loving people as it is an intergalactic adventure, A Wrinkle in Time won the 1963 Newbery Medal and changed the lives of countless readers.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

On December 30, 2003, essayist Joan Didion’s husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, died of a massive heart attack. The couple had just returned home from the hospital, where they had been caring for their daughter Quintana who was in a coma. Over the next year, Didion is forced through a series of difficult experiences; some she dealt with calmly and others not as well. This work is a spare, moving, and elegant examination of that year of her life, touching on marriage, parenting, and grief. Call number: BG 921 Didion