Alexandria Book Circle meets in Old Town Alexandria on the third Tuesday of the month. We read and discuss a wide variety of books: literary fiction, science fiction, fantasy, nonfiction, mystery, classics, thrillers, young adult, biography, and more! We'll even be discussing a short-story collection for the first time this year. We don't vote on books; any member may suggest a book, and we'll add it to the list. See the complete list of books for 2015, below.
We can't wait to welcome you to our next Book Club meeting!
2015 Reading List
(Meetups are generally the third Tuesday of the month. But please note that the August and September books had to be postponed to different dates because of schedule conflicts.)
Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. From the bestselling author of Seabiscuit comes the inspiring true story of a man who suvived a series of catastrophes almost too incredible to be believed. In evocative, immediate descriptions, Hillenbrand unfurls the story of Louie Zamperini--a juvenile delinquent-turned-Olympic-runner-turned-Army hero. During a routine mission over the Pacific, Louie’s plane crashed into the ocean. What happened to him over the next three years is a story that will keep you glued to the pages. You’ll cheer for the man who maintained his selfhood and humanity despite the monumental degradations he suffered, and you’ll want to share this book with everyone you know. (The film version has just been released. Maybe we can go see it as a group.)
Originally Scheduled for February 17 - POSTPONED BECAUSE OF SNOW
The Master & Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov. Mikhail Bulgakov's devastating satire of Soviet life was written during the darkest period of Stalin's regime. Combining two distinct yet interwoven plots—one set in ancient Jerusalem, and one in the circus-like reality of 1930s Moscow—this novel has everything: violent storms, vampire attacks a Satanic ball; the meeting of Pilate and Yeshua, and the murder of Judas in the moonlit garden of Gethsemane. It blends fantasy and chilling realism, an artful collage of grotesqueries, dark comedy, and timeless ethical questions.
Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. During an arduous sea voyage, a young nun from India saves the life of an English doctor bound for Ethiopia. Seven years later, she dies birthing conjoined twin boys, Shiva and Marion, whose father abandons them. In this novel by Ethiopian doctor Verghese, Marion narrates his own and his brother’s long, dramatic story, set against the backdrop of political turmoil in Ethiopia, the life of the hospital compound in which they grow up, and the love story of the doctors who adopted them. The boys become doctors as well, and Vergheses weaves the practice of medicine into the narrative in a story that bobs and weaves with the power and coincidences of the best 19th-century novel.
Dangerous Women I, ed. by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois. Actually, there are three different “Dangerous Women” story anthologies. George R.R. Martin — best known for the “Song of Ice & Fire” book series and Game of Thrones HBO series based on it — asked authors to write stories about, well, dangerous women. The result was a huge anthology, but some of the stories in it are available in volumes of a less daunting size. We’ll be reading the one titled Dangerous Women I. If you buy the whole collection, the original Dangerous Women, be sure to read the stories that also appear in volume I, by authors Carrie Vaughn, Nancy Kress, Lawrence Block, Megan Abbot, Joe R. Lansdale, Brandon Sanderson, and George R.R. Martin himself, with a novella set in his “Song of Ice & Fire” universe.
The Light in the Ruins, by Chris Bohjalian. This spellbinding novel of love, despair, and revenge, set in war-ravaged Tuscany, begins in 1943. Tucked away in the hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, a family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will protect them from the war raging across Europe. The Rosatis' tranquility is shattered when a German lieutenant courts 18-year-old Cristina, Nazis demand hospitality, partisans take shelter in the nearby Etruscan ruins, and what once was the family’s sanctuary becomes its prison. In 1955, Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. When she is assigned to a gruesome new case – a serial killer targeting the Rosatis – Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic memories of the war.
Divergent, by Veronica Roth. Divergent is the gripping story of a dystopian world (future Chicago) divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Like all teens in her society, Beatrice Prior must choose between staying with her family in Abnegation, the faction of her birth, and transferring to a different one. The faction she chooses will be her home for the rest of her life. Before the Choosing, all teens are tested to give them an idea of which faction they are best suited for. But Beatrice’s test shows something rare and dangerous, something she must keep secret, because in her world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett. This book tells the story of how best-selling novelist Patchett became a writer. As a child, she knew she had to write, and she was fortunate in her writing teachers (including Grace Paley and Russell Banks) and in her success at supporting herself by writing nonfiction. These 22 sterling essays form an episodic, instructive, and entertaining self-portrait. She reflects on her family, life on a Tennessee farm, literary discipline and inspiration, and her failed first marriage. Her second marriage is central to her hilarious account of an RV road trip, and her toughness and daring surface in “The Wall,” a riveting account of her father, a veteran police captain, coaching her as she takes the grueling admission test for the police academy. A self-described “workhorse” who also owns a bookstore, Patchett is a commanding and incisive storyteller.
September 2 (This is a WEDNESDAY)
This is actually the August book, but the meeting had to be postponed. Sorry about the schedule change.
A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness. It all begins with a lost manuscript, a reluctant witch, and a 1,500-year-old vampire. Oxford scholar Dr. Diana Bishop has a good reason for refusing to do magic: she is descended from the first woman executed in the Salem Witch Trials. Before her parents were murdered, they cautioned her to be discreet about her talents. When Diana unlocks an enchanted long-lost manuscript that just might hold the secret of immortality, she finds herself in a race to prevent an interspecies war. Harkness, a historian, adds a scholar’s depth to this riveting tale of magic and suspense. A Discovery of Witches is a heady mix of history, magic, and mythology, making for an intoxicating one-sitting read.
September 22 (One week later than usual)
A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan. Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling novel, Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.
The Black Tower, by Louis Bayard. (There is another book with this title. Make sure you get the one by author Louis Bayard!) Master of disguise and chief of a newly created plainclothes police force, Vidocq is a man whose name sends terror rippling through the Parisian underworld of 1818. And the inconsequential life of Hector Carpentier is violently shaken when Vidocq storms into it. A former medical student living in his mother's Latin Quarter boardinghouse, Hector finds himself dragged into a dangerous mystery surrounding the fate of the ten-year-old son of King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, presumed to have suffered a cruel death years earlier. But the truth of what happened may be even more shocking, and it will fall to the aimless young man and the most feared detective in Paris to find justice for a frightened little boy in a black tower...at any cost.
Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA, by Joby Warrick. In December 2009, a group of the CIA’s top terrorist hunters gathered at a secret base in Afghanistan to greet superspy Humam Khalil al-Balawi, a Jordanian who had infiltrated al-Qaeda. He promised to help the CIA assassinate Osama bin Laden’s top deputy. Instead, as he stepped from his car, al-Balawi detonated a bomb, instantly killing seven CIA operatives, the agency’s worst loss of life in decades. With breathless momentum and rare inside access, Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter Joby Warrick takes us deep inside the CIA's war against al-Qaeda for an unforgettable portrait of both al-Balawi and the veteran agents whose fierce desire to avenge 9/11 led to a terrible miscalculation.
Decorum, by Kaaren Christopherson. In 1890s New York, Francesca Lund is an intriguing prospect for suitors and fortune hunters alike. Recently orphaned, she copes by working with the poor in the city's settlement movement. But a young woman of means can't shun society for long, and Francesca's long-standing acquaintance with Edmund Tracey eventually leads to engagement. Yet her sheltered upbringing doesn't blind her to the indiscretions of the well-to-do. This brilliantly observed novel captures the glamour and grit of one of the world's most dazzling cities during one of its most tumultuous eras--as seen through the eyes of a captivating heroine.