Month: October 2016 (page 2 of 3)

A Great Reckoning
Louis Penny

Instant Newgreat-reckoning York Times bestseller: #1 in Hardcover Fiction #1 in E-book Fiction #1 in Combined Print and E-book Fiction “Deep and grand and altogether extraordinary….Miraculous.” —The Washington Post “Artful…Powerful…Magical.” – The New York Times Book Review “Superb” – People “A Great Reckoning succeeds on every level.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch #1 New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny pulls back the layers to reveal a brilliant and emotionally powerful truth in her latest spellbinding novel. When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes. Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must. And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map. Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor. The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets. For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.

Recommended by Taylor Strubinger

Oh, Florida!
How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country

Craig Pittman

floridaOh, Florida! That name. That combination of sounds. Three simple syllables, and yet packing so many mixed messages. To some people, it’s a paradise. To others, it’s a punch line. As Oh, Florida! shows, it’s both of these and, more important, it’s a Petri dish, producing trends that end up influencing the rest of the country. Without Florida there would be no NASCAR, no Bettie Page pinups, no Glenn Beck radio rants, no USA Today, no “Stand Your Ground,” . . . you get the idea.

To outsiders, Florida seems baffling. It’s a state where the voters went for Barack Obama twice, yet elected a Tea Party candidate as governor. Florida is touted as a carefree paradise, yet it’s also known for its perils-alligators, sinkholes, pythons, hurricanes, and sharks, to name a few. It attracts 90 million visitors a year, some drawn by its impressive natural beauty, others bewitched by its manmade fantasies.

Oh, Florida! explores those contradictions and shows how they fit together to make this the most interesting state. It is the first book to explore the reasons why Florida is so wild and weird-and why that’s okay. Florida couldn’t be Florida without that sense of the unpredictable, unexpected, and unusual lurking behind every palm tree. But there is far more to Florida than its sideshow freakiness. Oh, Florida! explains how Florida secretly, subtly influences all the other states in the Union, both for good and for ill.

Written in the voice of our own John Wolcott, this is an amusing book about “a sunny state full of shady people”.  Gary Banks

Judges of the Secret Court
A Novel about John Wilkes Booth

David Stackton

judgescourtDavid Stacton’s The Judges of The Secret Court is a long-lost triumph of American fiction as well as one of the finest books ever written about the Civil War. Stacton’s gripping and atmospheric story revolves around the brothers Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, members of a famous theatrical family. Edwin is a great actor, himself a Hamlet-like character whose performance as Hamlet will make him an international sensation. Wilkes is a blustering mediocrity on stage who is determined, however, to be an actor in history, and whose assassination of Abraham Lincoln will change America. Stacton’s novel about how the roles we play become, for better or for worse, the lives we lead, takes us back to the day of the assassination, immersing us in the farrago of bombast that fills Wilkes’s head while following his footsteps up to the fatal encounter at Ford’s Theatre. The political maneuvering around Lincoln’s deathbed and Wilkes’s desperate flight and ignominious capture then set the stage for a political show trial that will condemn not only the guilty but the—at least relatively—innocent. For as Edwin Booth broods helplessly many years later, and as Lincoln, whose tragic death and wisdom overshadow this tale, also knew, “We are all accessories before or after some fact. . . . We are all guilty of being ourselves.”

Available as a Book-in-a-Bag.  Anyone read it?

January 11, 2017
Hillbilly Elegy
J.D.Vance

hillbillyFrom a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck. The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history. A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

Discussion leader: John Wolcott

Gentlemen–Hillbilly Elegy is an extremely important book, perhaps more because so many pundits are liberally quoting it than might truly be the case–and therein lies an intriguing paradox. However, Elegy is extraordinarily well-written (the pages fly by) and relates an absorbing, disturbing, yet at times uplifting story set in Appalachia, referred to by politicians, some sympathetically, others, condescendingly, as the Rust Belt. Our discussion will be both lively and provocative.

Once you’ve put the book down (but not before), please read the attached book review from The New Yorker. I’ve read a number of others, and none comes close. It’s so good that you could almost skip the book, but again, the book is so well crafted that you shouldn’t miss it. The article also refers to several other sources that might be worth a look.

New Yorker – Hillbilly Elegy

See you all January 11. In the meantime, Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year, speaking of which, make reading Hillbilly Elegy your first New Year’s Resolution!

–John

Left in the Wind
The Roanoke Journal of Emme Merrimoth

Ed Gray

leftinthewindFaced with dwindling resources and warring tribes, the colony on Roanoke Island begins to crumble while one young housekeeper commits herself to recording her every memory of the Lost Colony.

In 1587, the 118 men, women, and children of the “Lost Colony” were abandoned by their governor on what is now Roanoke Island, North Carolina, and never heard from again.

In this fictional journal, Emme Merrimoth―one of the actual colonists of Roanoke―recounts the harrowing journey that brought the colonists to the New World. During the voyage, Emme becomes involved with Governor John White, who reassigns her to his household and then asks her to marry him. With no better prospects and happy to be free of her bland former employers, Emme agrees.

Once on Roanoke, the colonist restore the village abandoned by former English settlers and realize, when faced with hostile natives, that they have been misled by White. White plots to return to England to avoid the hardship of the New World, and he and his supporters drive a hard bargain with the colonists: they will send back much-needed supplies from England if they allow White to flee without interference. Faced with little choice, the colonists agree, and are left to fare on their own.

Emme, due to a scandalous past, is accused of witchcraft, shunned by the colonists, and enslaved by a nearby tribe. But throughout these dramatic turns of events, Emme commits herself to putting down on paper her every memory of the Lost Colony.

 

The Library has this as a Book-in-a-Bag.  Anyone read it?

December 14, 2016 –
Book Discussion
The Last Hurrah
Edwin O’Connor

last-hurrah“We’re living in a sensitive age, Cuke, and I’m not altogether sure you’re fully attuned to it.” So says Irish-American politician Frank Skeffington—a cynical, corrupt 1950s mayor, and also an old-school gentleman who looks after the constituents of his New England city and enjoys their unwavering loyalty in return. But in our age of dynasties, mercurial social sensitivities, and politicians making love to the camera, Skeffington might as well be talking to us.

Not quite a roman á clef of notorious Boston mayor James Michael Curley, The Last Hurrahtells the story of Skeffington’s final campaign as witnessed through the eyes of his nephew, who learns a great deal about politics as he follows his uncle to fundraisers, wakes, and into smoke-filled rooms, ultimately coming—almost against his will—to admire the man. Adapted into a 1958 film starring Spencer Tracy and directed by John Ford (and which Curley tried to keep from being made), Edwin O’Connor’s opus reveals politics as it really is, and big cities as they really were. An expansive, humorous novel offering deep insight into the Irish-American experience and the ever-changing nature of the political machine, The Last Hurrah reveals political truths still true today: what the cameras capture is just the smiling face of the sometimes sordid business of giving the people what they want.

Discussion Leader: David Mace

Hero of the Empire
Candice Millard

hero-of-the-empireFrom New York Times bestselling author of Destiny of the Republic and The River of Doubt, a thrilling narrative of Winston Churchill’s extraordinary and little-known exploits during the Boer War.

At age twenty-four, Winston Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England one day, despite the fact he had just lost his first election campaign for Parliament.  He believed that to achieve his goal he must do something spectacular on the battlefield.  Despite deliberately putting himself in extreme danger as a British Army officer in colonial wars in India and Sudan, and as a journalist covering a Cuban uprising against the Spanish, glory and fame had eluded him.   Churchill arrived in South Africa in 1899, valet and crates of vintage wine in tow, there to cover the brutal colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels.

But just two weeks after his arrival, the soldiers he was accompanying on an armored train were ambushed, and Churchill was taken prisoner.  Remarkably, he pulled off a daring escape–but then had to traverse hundreds of miles of enemy territory, alone, with nothing but a crumpled wad of cash, four slabs of chocolate, and his wits to guide him.

The story of his escape is incredible enough, but then Churchill enlisted, returned to South Africa, fought in several battles, and ultimately liberated the men with whom he had been imprisoned.    Churchill would later remark that this period, “could I have seen my future, was to lay the foundations of my later life.”

Millard spins an epic story of bravery, savagery, and chance encounters with a cast of historical characters—including Rudyard Kipling, Lord Kitchener, and Mohandas Gandhi—with whom he would later share the world stage. But Hero of the Empire is more than an adventure story, for the lessons Churchill took from the Boer War would profoundly affect 20th century history.

 

The book club should consider this for discussion.  Gary Banks

 

The Invention of Nature
Andrea Wulf

humboldtThe acclaimed author of Founding Gardeners reveals the forgotten life of Alexander von Humboldt, the visionary German naturalist whose ideas changed the way we see the natural world—and in the process created modern environmentalism.

NATIONAL BEST SELLER

One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, The James Wright Award for Nature Writing, the Costa Biography Award, the Royal Geographic Society’s Ness Award, the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award

Finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, the Royal Society Science Book Prize, the Kirkus Prize Prize for Nonfiction, the Independent Bookshop Week Book Award

A Best Book of the Year: The New York Times

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was the most famous scientist of his age, a visionary German naturalist and polymath whose discoveries forever changed the way we understand the natural world. Among his most revolutionary ideas was a radical conception of nature as a complex and interconnected global force that does not exist for the use of humankind alone. In North America, Humboldt’s name still graces towns, counties, parks, bays, lakes, mountains, and a river. And yet the man has been all but forgotten.

In this illuminating biography, Andrea Wulf brings Humboldt’s extraordinary life back into focus: his prediction of human-induced climate change; his daring expeditions to the highest peaks of South America and to the anthrax-infected steppes of Siberia; his relationships with iconic figures, including Simón Bolívar and Thomas Jefferson; and the lasting influence of his writings on Darwin, Wordsworth, Goethe, Muir, Thoreau, and many others. Brilliantly researched and stunningly written, The Invention of Nature reveals the myriad ways in which Humboldt’s ideas form the foundation of modern environmentalism—and reminds us why they are as prescient and vital as ever.

I enjoy a book that tells me something I didn’t know. This is one.  Humboldt is right up there with Darwin but not well known.  He figured out that nature is not a collection of things but a system. We’d call it ecology today.  I think Sunil Saksena and Rich Sabreen share my enthusiasm. Gary Banks

An appreciation
of the United States
by DMA member Sunil Saksena

I recently celebrated a personal milestone which I feel compelled to share … September 23, 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of my arrival in the United States. It was cause not only for celebration but also for reflection and thanks.

Fifty years ago, in September 1966, a young man from India boarded a Pan Am flight from New Delhi, India bound for San Francisco, Cal. I was coming to the University of California at Berkeley to pursue a graduate degree in engineering. My plan was to obtain the degree, work for two or three years and then head back home. Little did I know…

Within weeks of my arrival in Berkeley, I had inhaled the fresh air of freedom and, this being Berkeley in the sixties, it wasn’t just freedom, it was freedom plus. At that time India wasn’t the rollicking democracy it is today. It was run on socialist lines where the government controlled all major sectors of the economy, and personal freedoms, while enshrined in the country’s constitution, were, in practice, hugely circumscribed. So for me to taste this freedom in Berkeley, was a heady experience: it was intoxicating, it was liberating and it became addictive. It felt like a new birth, in fact, “a new birth of freedom,” to quote that immortal phrase from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Once having tasted this freedom, it was hard to untaste it; once the mind has been unshackled, it is hard to allow it to be shackled again. I decided to abandon my plan to return to India and to make America my new home.

Now, 50 years later, the fact that I am a resident of the prosperous town of Darien is not so much a testament to anything special that I accomplished. Rather, it is a testament to this country that it can take a young man of perhaps modest ability and intelligence, and mold and motivate him to be the best that he can be. This is the true genius of America and that’s what makes this country great.

As I reflected, I realized that I, an immigrant, have lived in this country longer than three-quarters of native born Americans living today, because they are less than 50 years old. Just think about that. It is truly astonishing and could happen in no other country. And that, too, is what makes America great.

And so I say to America: Thank you for a great 50 years!

Sunil Saksena

November 9, 2016 –
Book Discussion
Destiny of the Republic
Madness, Medicine & the Murder of a President

Candice Millard

destinyoftherepublicThe extraordinary New York Times bestselling account of James Garfield’s rise from poverty to the American presidency, and the dramatic history of his assassination and legacy, from bestselling author of The River of Doubt, Candice Millard.

James Abram Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, a renowned congressman, and a reluctant presidential candidate who took on the nation’s corrupt political establishment. But four months after Garfield’s inauguration in 1881, he was shot in the back by a deranged office-seeker named Charles Guiteau. Garfield survived the attack, but become the object of bitter, behind-the-scenes struggles for power—over his administration, over the nation’s future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. Meticulously researched, epic in scope, and pulsating with an intimate human focus and high-velocity narrative drive, The Destiny of the Republic brings alive a forgotten chapter of U.S. history.

Discussion leader: Joe Spain

November 2, 2016
Tom Molito, Author
Mickey Mantle: Inside and Outside the Lines

tom-molito

Tom Molito will talk about his book, Mickey Mantle: Inside and Outside the Lines, that was written for baseball lovers and Mantle fans. Archival newspaper articles, websites and more than 35 books on Mantle are used to weave the most complete, unique look at an American icon. The book recalls never-before-told stories: from Park Avenue to Las Vegas to Cooperstown; from television shoots to concerts and Mickey’s restaurant on Central Park West.

This year is the 60th anniversary of Mantle’s Triple Crown season, which many baseball experts consider one of the best seasons ever for a ball player. Although baseball fans who experienced that season are decreasing in number, Mickey Mantle is more popular than ever. The value of his memorabilia is second to none. He remains respected and admired for the redemptive quality of his life.

Mickey Mantle and Tom Molito

Mickey Mantle and Tom Molito

Molito collaborated with the highly respected baseball historian Harold “Doc” Friend. The late Mr. Friend wrote for Bleacher Report (CBS) and uncovered previously unknown facts about Mantle’s career – such as Mickey hitting the facade in Yankee Stadium three times, not the reported twice. An entire chapter updates Mantle’s career with present-day statistical measures and comes to the indisputable conclusion that “Mickey Mantle was even better than we thought!”

Tom lives in New Canaan with his wife Kathleen. They have three adult children, four grandchildren and will soon celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. A graduate of Iona College and a U.S. Army veteran, Tom served in senior marketing positions at both Nestle and UST Inc. where he founded and was president of a wholly owned subsidiary, Cabin Fever Entertainment. He met Mickey Mantle as a result of Cabin Fever’s award winning production of the 500 Home Run Club. Tom’s relationship with Mickey Mantle developed into a friendship and eventually the book that is available at leading booksellers.

Tom has served on the boards of The Country Music Association and Family Services of Westchester. He was very involved in the Children’s Program at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. His talk will include an exhibit featuring Mickey Mantle by various artists.

Arranged by Alex Garnett

A Splendid Savage
The Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnham

Steve Kemper

splendid-savage

A biography of an adventurer whose exploits took him from the American West to Africa, Mexico, and the Klondike, earned him an appointment as Chief of Scouts for the British during the Boer War, and inspired his friend Robert Baden-Powell to found the Boy Scouts.

 

Recommended by Taylor Strubinger.

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