Educated by Tara Westover
Tara never attended school before she got a scholarship at 17 to Brigham Young University. She also studied at Harvard and Cambridge, earning a Ph.D. in history. This is her remarkable story of struggle, survival, and achievement. The youngest of seven children raised in rural Idaho by a Mormon survivalist and a homeopathic midwife, Tara was taught to read and to work. I was angry at her parents for neglecting her education, endangering her life in their junkyard and on overnight car trips, but also for not protecting her from an abusive sibling. Remarkably, two of her brothers also have Ph.D.s and helped Tara escape the mountains and learn to tell her story. Compulsively readable and utterly heartwrenching, this memoir is a good readalike for Jeannette Walls’ books.
Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber
Two coworkers unknowingly connect on a dating website and start chatting online daily. Merry Knight is a data entry temp at a Seattle firm, saving money to finish college. Due to a human resources mistake, her name tag says Mary. Jason Bright, nicknamed Jay, is a vice-president in his uncle’s firm, and isn’t very nice when asking data entry staff to work overtime or take down holiday decorations. Jay/Jason was a lonely rich kid sent to boarding schools and summer camps; his cousin Cooper is his only friend. Merry/Mary lives with her parents and adores her 18-year-old brother Patrick, who has Down Syndrome. Merry’s love for Christmas is contagious, but things go badly when the online pair agree to meet in person. I enjoyed the narration of the audiobook by Em Eldridge, with alternating chapters from his and her points of view, but it was confusing telling Mary and Merry apart. Light and cozy, this is a charming holiday read.
On November 20 at 10 a.m., the Tuesday Morning Book Group will meet to discuss Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. This is a contemporary thriller about a small plane crash off the coast of New England. We know that there will be survivors, but not who they are or why the plane crashed. My earlier review is here.
The Tuesday Evening Book Group will meet at 7 p.m. on November 27 to discuss Less, by Andrew Sean Greer. This is the poignant and funny contemporary novel that unexpectedly won the Pulitzer Prize. Here’s my review.
The Crime Readers will meet at 6 p.m. for an optional dinner at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien, and will discuss Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie at 7 p.m.
Copies of the books are available now at the Circulation Desk.
Stop in the library to see a display of discussible books for National Reading Group Month. Handouts include lists of book group suggestions from Indie Next and the Women’s National Book Association. I am planning winter and spring book discussions and find these lists helpful. Happy reading!
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
April becomes a celebrity after she encounters a large metallic statue late one night in Manhattan. Her friend Andy records a video with April and the statue they nickname Carl, and the video goes viral. Sixty-four identical statues have appeared in cities around the world, including one in Hollywood. April gets a publicist and makes the rounds of talk shows, yet doesn’t know how to maintain her relationship with Maya. April, now known as April May, has plenty of adventures trying to solve the mystery of the Carls. While she definitely has some weaknesses, April thinks the Carls are benevolent, and has high hopes for the future. Fast-paced and entertaining, this first novel is a compelling, quirky read. More, please!
Porter Fox spent three years exploring the northern border of the lower forty-eight states with Canada. Raised in Maine, he begins in the waters off the coast of Maine and travels the 4,000 mile border by canoe, freighter, car, and on foot. Along the way to the Peace Arch in Blaine, Washington, he describes the scenery and history of the border region, and talks with many of the border residents, border patrol agents, and visits the Standing Rock pipeline protestors in North Dakota. Some border residents have been used to commuting across the border for work, school, or shopping and are finding the border harder to cross in recent years. Some of the most interesting chapters were a freighter voyage across four of the Great Lakes and canoeing and camping in the Boundary Waters. I found this book to be a good mix of history, scenery, and armchair travel.
The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis
Clara Darden is a new art instructor at the Grand Central School of Art in late 1920s New York City, hoping to illustrate covers for Vogue magazine. Clara doesn’t get the same respect as male artists, and the Depression makes it increasingly harder for artists to make a living. In 1974 Virginia Clay, recently divorced mother of college-age daughter Ruby, gets a job at the information booth at the rundown terminal. Virginia discovers the abandoned art school, and a painting similar to one featured in an art auction catalog. While the painting may be valuable, the real masterpiece here is the Grand Central Terminal, which is about to lose its landmark status. Art, architecture, and the lives of the two women connect in a very satisfying way. Readalikes include Georgia by Dawn Tripp and The Art Forger by Barbara Shapiro. This appealing historical novel is sure to be popular with book groups.
Rediscovering Travel: A Guide for the Globally Curious by Seth Kugel
I enjoyed reading stories about Seth Kugel’s travel adventures, and learned some useful advice for future travel. He wrote the Frugal Traveler column for the New York Times for several years, and speaks Spanish, Portuguese, and some French. His suggestions are to spend more time in fewer places, to skip top attractions if they don’t really appeal to you, get suggestions from locals and fellow travelers, save some time on your trip for spontaneity, and try to be in the moment, not staring at your phone. Be skeptical of reviews and don’t spend more money than you need to for an enjoyable vacation. Many interesting anecdotes make for a quick read; suggested for armchair travelers and global explorers.