The 2019 Book List Is Here! Alexandria Book Circle meets in Old Town Alexandria at 8 pm 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 can't wait to welcome you to our next Book Club meeting!
In 2019, we will meet a week early in November, on the second Tuesday of the month instead of the third, because our usual date is just two days before Thanksgiving.
Here is the book list for 2019:
Alexandria Book Circle 2019 Reading List
TUESDAY, JANUARY 15
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (suggested by Meredith)
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel centers around Theo Decker. Longing for his mother, who was killed in an accident when he was 13, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysterious painting that ultimately draws him into the underworld of art. As an adult, he moves between the drawing rooms of the rich and the antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle. The Goldfinch is mesmerizing, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate. (THIS ONE IS A BIT LONGER THAN USUAL. START EARLY!)
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19
Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo," by Zora Neale Hurston (suggested by Julie)
Barracoon illuminates the horrors of slavery as it tells the true story of one of the last-known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade—abducted from Africa on the last "Black Cargo" ship to arrive in the U.S. Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, in 1927 and again in 1931, to interview 86-year-old Cudjo Lewis. Of the millions who were transported from Africa as slaves, Cudjo was then the only person alive to tell the story of this part of our history. Spending more than three months there, Hurston talked with Cudjo about the details of his life. Based on those interviews, featuring Cudjo’s unique vernacular, and written with the singular style that has made Hurston a preeminent American author of the 20th century, Barracoon masterfully conveys the tragedy of slavery and of one life forever defined by it.
TUESDAY, MARCH 19
Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy (suggested by Joy)
In this NY Times bestseller, fearless, funny, and unforgettable heroine Willowdean Dixon takes on her small town’s beauty pageant. The self-proclaimed fat girl (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty-queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. When a relationship with a boy makes her start to doubt herself, she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant, to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and herself most of all.
TUESDAY, APRIL 16
Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver (suggested at a recent meeting; sorry, it wasn't in writing, and I don't remember who brought it up)
Two families. Two times. One address. Nineteenth-century science teacher Thatcher Greenwood, fascinated by Darwin’s new book, is torn between his employer’s mandates and his obligation to teach the truth. In modern times, Willa Knox and her husband, living in the same house where Thatcher once lived, can’t understand how two hardworking professionals can do everything right and end up destitute, with nothing to show for it but debts and an inherited brick house that is falling apart. Kingsolver’ latest novel interweaves past and present to explore the human capacity for resiliency and compassion in times of great upheaval.
TUESDAY, MAY 21
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari (suggested by both Barbara and Sofia)
How did Homo sapiens evolve from an unexceptional savannah-dwelling primate to the dominant force on the planet? How did we emerge as the lone survivor out of six distinct, competing hominid species? Tackling evolutionary concepts from a historian’s perspective, Harari describes human development through a framework of three not-necessarily-orthodox “Revolutions”: the Cognitive, the Agricultural, and the Scientific. His ideas are interesting and often amusing, as Harari’s deft prose and wry, subversive humor make quick work of material that might otherwise be prone to academic tedium.
TUESDAY, JUNE 18
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (suggested by Anne)
PBS’s The Great Read recently named it the most loved novel among American readers. Since its debut more than 50 years ago, this unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town has been translated into forty languages and read – and loved – by millions. It has won a Pulitzer Prize and has been made into one of America’s best loved films. The story centers around Atticus Finch, a white attorney who is asked to represent a black man accused of raping a white woman, and is seen through the eyes of his precocious daughter Scout. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.
TUESDAY, JULY 16
Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri (suggested by Tejas)
Navigating between the Indian traditions they've inherited and a baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri's elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of culture and generations. In "A Temporary Matter," a young Indian-American couple faces the heartbreak of a stillborn birth while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors and hears an astonishing confession. Lahiri writes with deft cultural insight and nuance. She is an important and powerful new voice.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 20
Narcissus & Goldmund, by Hermann Hesse (suggested by Anne)
Hesse's classic novel contrasts two medieval men who are friends despite their differences – one quietly content with his religion and monastic life, the other in search of more worldly salvation. This conflict between flesh and spirit, between emotional and contemplative man, was a life study for Hesse, and is a theme that transcends time.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17
Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover (suggested by Catherine P.)
Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When Tara decided to try a new kind of life, her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, or if there was still a way home. Named one of the ten best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review and the Washington Post.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15
Never Let Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro (suggested by Catherine M.)
As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules, where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is modern classic by a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12 (this is a week early, to avoid meeting on Thanksgiving week)
News of the World, by Paulette Jiles (suggested by Larry)
In 1870, Captain Jefferson Kidd travels through Texas, reading to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. A widower who has lived through three wars, he enjoys his rootless, solitary existence. Then he is offered $50 to deliver a 10-year-old orphan to relatives in San Antonio. For four years, Johanna has been raised among the Kiowa, after they killed her parents and sister. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the child has again been torn away from the only home she knows. Now, her 400-mile journey with Kidd through unsettled territory proves difficult. She has forgotten the English language, repeatedly tries to escape, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land. Exquisitely rendered and morally complex, this National Book Award finalist is a brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, honor, and trust.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 17
The Library Book, by Susan Orlean (suggested by Marilea)
On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. The fire was disastrous: by the time it was extinguished, it had consumed 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than 30 years later, the mystery remains: Did someone intentionally set fire to the library—and if so, who? Weaving her love of books into an investigation of the fire, award-winning reporter and author Susan Orlean delivers a uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before. She showcases the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable; studies arson and attempts to burn a book herself; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the actor long suspected of setting the LAPL fire. Brimming with wit, insight, and a talent for research, The Library Book is a thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country.
(I have often been asked who suggested a particular book on our list, and have seldom been able to say. So this time, I have kept track of that information and included it on the book list. If you suggested a book and it was not selected, it may be that this group has read it before. Or it was too long, not widely available, or too similar to another book we’re reading.)