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 2016, below.
We can't wait to welcome you to our next Book Club meeting!
2016 Reading List, Alexandria Book Circle
(All dates are the third Tuesday of the month.)
January 19: Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
Kirsten will never forget the night a famous actor had a heart attack on stage during King Lear. That night, a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city. Within weeks, civilization as we know it was gone. Years later, Kirsten travels through the altered world with a troupe of actors and musicians. The Traveling Symphony is dedicated to keeping art and humanity alive. But when the group arrives in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
February 16: Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
At 22, devastated from her divorce and her mother’s death, Cheryl Strayed made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, she would hike the 1000+ miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington. And she would do it alone. This memoir captures the terrors and pleasures of a woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
March 15: Flight of the Sparrow, by Amy Belding Brown
Even before Mary Rowlandson was captured by Indians, she was sometimes in conflict with her rigid 17th century Puritan community. Now the slave of a female tribal leader, Mary is a pawn in the bloody struggle between English settlers and natives. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, she witnesses harrowing brutality but also kindness. And to her surprise, she finds herself drawn to her captors’ way of life. Always taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians, she now begins to question her long-held ideas about faith, freedom, and acceptance. Based on a true story.
April 19: No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes, by Anand Gopal
In this breathtaking chronicle, acclaimed journalist Anand Gopal traces the lives of three Afghans caught in America's war on terror. He follows a Taliban commander, who rises from scrawny teenager to leading insurgent; a U.S.-backed warlord, who uses the American military to gain wealth and power; and a village housewife trapped between the two sides, who discovers the devastating cost of neutrality. Through their dramatic stories, No Good Men Among the Living stunningly lays bare the workings of America's longest war and the truth behind its prolonged agony. A finalist for both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award.
May 17: Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, by Lawrence M. Schoen
An historian who speaks with the dead is ensnared by the past. A child who should not exist sees the future. Between them are truths that will shake worlds. Humanity is gone and forgotten, but our successors thrive throughout the galaxy. These are the offspring of humanity's genius -- animals uplifted into walking, talking, sentient beings. The Fant are one such species: anthropomorphic elephants ostracized by other races and living on the rainy world of Barsk. There, they’ve developed the coveted drug koph, which allows some users to interact with the dead. When an off-world shadow group attempts to break the Fant's control of koph, Jorl, a Fant Speaker with the dead, unearths a secret that those in power would prefer to keep buried forever. Meanwhile, his dead friend's son, a physically challenged young Fant named Pizlo, is driven by disturbing visions to take his first unsteady steps toward an uncertain future. Yes, it sounds weird, and it is, but wonderfully so. The genetically manipulated animals are fully rounded characters with a great deal of humanity, and the story will keep you reading long past bedtime. Got questions for the author? Send them in before the meeting; I can get the answers!
June 21: Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan
In this ambitious debut novel, fact and fiction blend brilliantly as Horan tells the story of Mamah Borthwick Cheney’s love affair with famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, despite the fact that both were married and had children. Drawing on years of research, Horan weaves little-known facts into a compelling narrative, vividly portraying the struggles of a woman forced to choose between the roles of mother, wife, lover, and intellectual. Mamah’s journey is marked by choices that reshape her notions of love and responsibility, leading to the novel’s stunning conclusion.
July 19: The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith
London Private Investigator Cormoran Strike’s final feud with his arguably insane fiancée leaves him camping in his office, wondering how his last two clients will keep him afloat and pay for his new secretary, Robin. When a childhood acquaintance asks him to investigate a supermodel’s apparent suicide, Strike finds a distraction from his problems that’s happily attached to a check. Lula Landry was surrounded by rabid paparazzi, a drug-addled social circle, a dysfunctional adopted family, and a shifty, newly found birth mother, making suicidal despair hard to dismiss. But with Robin’s surprisingly adept assistance, Strike dismantles witness statements, applying masterful deductive skills to find evidence of murder. The story is instantly absorbing, featuring a detective facing crumbling circumstances and a lovable sidekick with contagious enthusiasm for detection. The author nimbly sidesteps celebrity superficiality, instead exploring the ugly truths in Lula’s six degrees of separation.
August 16: Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
In an unnamed South American country, Roxane Coss, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. Alas, in the opening sequence, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a soap opera. Thus, from the beginning, things go awry. Among the hostages are not only the Japanese industrialist and the American soprano, but also an assortment of Russian, Italian, and French diplomatic types. Meanwhile, a Swiss Red Cross negotiator is roped into service while vacationing. As he wrangles over terms and demands, the days stretch into weeks, and the weeks into months. With the omniscience of magic realism, Ann Patchett flits in and out of the hearts and psyches of hostage and terrorist alike, and in doing so reveals a profound, shared humanity.
September 20: Guns, Germs, & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond
In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion --as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war --and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
October 18: Paper Towns, by John Green
When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q. John Green returns with his trademark brilliant wit and heart-stopping emotional honesty. Winner of the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery.
November 15: Hard-Boiled Wonderland & the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami
In this inventive and relentlessly inventive novel, Japan’s most popular and most controversial fiction writer hurtles into the consciousness of the West. In this elaborately plotted thriller, a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, and various thugs and librarians collide, to dazzling effect.
December 20 (Should we move this to earlier in the month?):
Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo
In this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting,carries the reader headlong into one of the 21st century’s hidden worlds—and into the hearts of families impossible to forget.