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Archive for the ‘Must Read Memoirs’ Category

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This week’s “3 Questions” features Alexander Chee, a writer, poet, journalist, and reviewer. Both his latest book, The Queen of the Night and his Edinburgh have been bestsellers.  The Queen of the Night was a NYT Book Review Editor’s Choice and named a Best Book of the Year by NPRThe Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle. Mr. Chee is an Associate Professor at Dartmouth College.
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Mr. Chee will appear on July 27 at the 1793 Meetinghouse in Canaan, N.H.’s Historic District as part of the The Meetinghouse Readings in Canaan. He will be accompanied by Major Jackson, a poet and professor of English at the University of Vermont in an event moderated by Phil Pochoda.

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The Canaan readings are held at 7:30 pm on four Thursday evenings in July. These events are free and open to the public; no reservations needed. Please note that this event is not held at the Norwich Bookstore. For more information, visit meetinghouse.us or call the Canaan Town Library (603) 523-9650.

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1.What three books have helped shape you into the writer you are today, and why?
I think we have books we hoped influenced us. I don’t know if we get to know the ones that really did influence us. Plainwater, by Anne Carson, and in particular, her essay, “Kinds of Water,” was a book I read and re-read for a decade, as if it could be a whetstone. The intense compression of the voice, the angular qualities of it, the humor, the playfulness–all were, are, qualities I aspire to. The Evidence of Things Not Seen, by James Baldwin, also left a profound mark on my imagination. The way he uses a series of murders as a lens to look inside the way the country functions, this changed my sense of what was possible in writing. But when I think back to the book’s that gave me a sense of permission, David Leavitt’s Family Dancing, his debut story collection, and Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior, in particular, both left me feeling as if someone had opened a door–the door to the road that led here.
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2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?
David Wojnarowicz. I have a copy of his collection of essays, Close to the Knives, signed to me, and yet I have no memory of him directly. The younger me had the wisdom to get his signature on the book, but lacked the foresight to remember the day–he wasn’t as important to me until after I read the book, when he became, for a while, the single most important writer in my life. So, a coffee in order to rectify that, that is what I want most.
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3.What books are currently on your bedside table?
The Little Virtues, by Natalia Ginzburg, Logical Family, the new memoir from Armistead Maupin, and The Fact of a Body, by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich.
NOTE: As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing and the living of life, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”. In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore or bookstore related venues. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to both attend these special author events and read their books.

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Ahhh travel … Honestly, when we are not doing it, we are dreaming about it. When we are not dreaming about it, we are reading as much as we can about far away places. So for today, we review some of our favorite books for inspiring future travel and/or for taking you away without leaving home.

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Brazilian Adventure Cover ImageBrazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming (1933) – In 1932, Peter Fleming, brother of Ian Fleming (yes, the James Bond Fleming) traded in his editor job for an adventure  — taking part in a search for missing English explorer Colonel P.H. Fawcett. Colonel Fawcett was lost, along with his son and another companion, while searching Brazil for the Lost City of Z (a trip recently memorialized by a Hollywood movie). With meager supplies, faulty maps, and packs of rival newspapermen on their trail, Fleming and company hiked, canoed, and hacked through 3,000 miles of wilderness and alligator-ridden rivers in search of Fawcett’s fate. Mr. Fleming tells the tale with vivid descriptions and the famous British wry humor, creating a truly memorable memoir and possibly one of the best travel books of all time.

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey Cover ImageThe River of Doubt by Candice Millard (2006) – After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, President Theodore Roosevelt decided to take on the most punishing physical challenge he could find — the first descent of an unmapped tributary of the Amazon (River, not the retail behemoth). Like Fleming, in the previously reviewed book, Roosevelt’s cast of adventurers is ill-prepared for the hardships ahead. Almost immediately, they lose their canoes and supplies in the whitewater rapids. This loss is followed by starvation, Indian attacks, disease, drowning, and murder; Roosevelt was brought to the brink of suicide. This nonfiction tale held my then 10-year-old and 13 year-old boys and their father in rapt attention as our family read-aloud when we were privileged to explore the Amazon River portion of my youngest’s native Colombia.

A Moveable Feast Cover ImageMoveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (1960) – We now move from South America to Europe with Mr. Hemingway’s classic memoir of his time in Paris. Read it to capture what Paris meant to American ex-pats in the 1920s. Or, read it just to enjoy fabulous writing and a glimpse into history. This book vividly renders the lives of Hemingway, his first wife Hadley, and their son Jack. It also includes irreverent portraits of their fellow travellers, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ford Maddox Ford, as well as insight into Hemingway’s own early experiments with his writing.

Burial Rites Cover ImageBurial Rites by Hannah Kent (2013) – Based upon the true story of Agnes, the last woman executed in Iceland, Ms. Kent vividly renders Agnes’s life from the point where she is sent to an isolated farm to await execution for killing her former master (or did she?). While the people Agnes encounters are memorable, perhaps most memorable is the way Ms. Kent makes Iceland a character too. As with anything written by the incredible writer Halldor Laxness, Burial Rites is for anyone planning a trip to this spectacular country, wanting to go there in their imagination, or wanting to revisit a trip they took there long ago.

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The convergence of the NBA finals, NHL finals, The French Open, baseball season, and golfing tournaments has us thinking about one of our favorite categories for BOOK BUZZ — sports books that are about so much more. Today we celebrate this current sports mania by highlighting some books about sports that are also about so much more. This list touches on running, basketball, crew, track and field, and football – both the American version and the kind the rest of the world plays. Please note that we include titles for adults, young adults, and children, but we do not label them as we don’t ever want to tell anyone that they are too old or too young to read a great book.

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The Golem's Mighty Swing Cover ImageThe Golem’s Mighty Swing by James Sturm (2017) –  This graphic novel tells the tale of the Stars of David, a barnstorming Jewish baseball team that played during the Depression. Using the true story of a team that travels among small towns playing ball and playing up their religious exoticism as something for people to heckle, this books combines baseball, small towns, racial tensions, and the desperate grasp for the American Dream. For those of you in the Upper Valley, Mr. Sturm will attend the Upper Valley Nighthawks game on June 10 to sign copies of this graphic novel.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen Cover ImageBorn to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall (2016) – No, this isn’t a Bruce Springsteen song but rather an inspirational book about long-distance running. Though we have yet to read it (behold, this is the second time we’ve ever included a book we haven’t read, see below!), one of us has ordered a copy due to her daughter’s utter enthusiasm about it.  After turning the last page, this daughter completely changed her own footwear and training regimen. So lace up your running shoes and start learning about a tribe that lives remotely and traditionally in the Copper Canyon of Mexico and  is renowned for its members who run 100 to 200 miles without a rest. By all accounts, this is a fascinating anthropological exploration of a little known people as well as a work that has the effect of getting readers running for the pure joy of it.

Soar Cover ImageSoar by Joan Bauer (2016) – We have recommended this before in numerous posts. However, since everyone we know who has read it has loved it, we feel no guilt whatsoever to adding this tale of how a boy’s love of baseball helps him adjust to a new school, a heart condition, and well life, to this post as well. Please read it if you haven’t already and enjoy!

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics Cover ImageThe Boys in the Boat (adult and YA versions) by Daniel James Brown (2013) – This story follows nine University of Washington students as they strive to become the rowing team representing the USA at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. These young men were never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, much less those attending the Olympics; their story is one of grit and inspiration.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Cover ImageUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (2010) – What is the sports aspect of this non-fiction book of surviving Japanese POW camps during WWII? Well, the amazing hero of this spellbinding tale was an Olympic runner long before he served the USA in the war. This book provides an incredible testament to the resilience of the human spirit. We recommend reading this and then joining your family to watch the movie version.

Fever Pitch Cover ImageFever Pitch by Nick Hornby (1998) – Fever Pitch is Mr. Hornby’s tribute to a lifelong obsession with English Football.  This award-winning memoir captures the fever pitch of fandom, coming of age stories, and the humor required to live a successful life.

Booked Cover ImageThe Crossover Cover ImageBooked and The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (assorted years) – Yes, we love Mr. Alexander’s books. Yes, we have recommended both these books before. But trust us, the youth readers you love will love these books about soccer (Booked) and basketball (The Crossover). They are poetic, perfect for reluctant readers, and both address how life happens while you have your eye on the ball.

Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream Cover ImageFriday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger (1990) – This book illustrates how sports – in this case high school football – can shape a community. It also inspired a pretty great television series (and a superb fundraising dinner for our town library). We recommend this book to football lovers (and lovers of small towns) everywhere.

The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life Cover ImageThe Playbook: 52 Rules to aim, shoot and score in this game called life by Kwame Alexander (2017) – This reminds us of another book of wisdom – 365 days of Wonder. But in The Playbook, Mr. Alexander uses sports and inspiring people such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama to offer advice about life. As with all his writing we have read thus far, Mr. Alexander uses humor and the well chosen word to get his point across. Bonus — this would make a superb elementary or middle school graduation gift.

Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback Cover ImagePaper Lion by George Plimpton (2009) – And now, for the second time ever (see above) we are including a book we have not yet read. But in our research about sports books we discovered that Book Week called this, “possibly the most arresting and delightful narrative in all of sports literature.” And we love the Detroit Lions; seriously Detroit could use a winning team people. So, we include this hoping someone will discover it as the perfect book for them, while we add it to our ever-growing pile of “to be read” book.

 

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Once again, we celebrated books, reading, and the power of youth last week at Vermont’s Thetford Academy (TA). The students’ and teachers’ picks for this latest BOOK BUZZ (the student version of the Book Jam’s Pages in the Pub) were eclectic and superb. We hope you enjoy reading from their list as much as we enjoyed hearing them passionately convince the audience why their book selections just had to be read.

We thank the presenters for their time, their enthusiasm and the list of books they generated. Their support made BOOK BUZZ a success. Bonus – thanks to the generosity of the Norwich Bookstore, the event raised money for the Thetford Academy Library.

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With great pleasure, we now list all twenty books discussed during the evening, each with its special six word review written by the presenter. You’ll notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make browsing easier. We hope you have fun looking, and that you enjoy reading about their picks from the comfort of your computer/iPad/phone using direct links to each selection. And now, our superb presenters’ picks for summer reading, with their bios at the end.

Miss Rumphius: Story and Pictures Cover Image

BOOKS YOU WOULD GIVE TO YOUNGER YOU

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (1982). Selected by Hannah – For those who wish to dream.

Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball Cover ImageThe Haters Cover Image

BOOKS ABOUT ROAD TRIPS TO TAKE ON ROAD TRIPS

Where Nobody Knows Your Name by John Feinstein (2014). Selected by Mr. Deffner – Everybody wants to make the Majors.

The Haters by Jesse Andrews (2016). Selected by Ms. OwenEscape band camp, find trouble, self. 

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FAVORITE BOOKS STARRING ANIMALS

House of a Million Pets by Ann Hodgman (2007). Selected by Hannah – Humorous tale for passing rainy day.

Scythe Cover ImageAmerica Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't [With 3-D Glasses] Cover Image

BOOKS TO READ ALOUD WITH A FLASHLIGHT/IN A TENT/AROUND A CAMPFIRE

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe Book 1) by Neal Schusterman (2016). Selected by Ms. Owen – No one dies unless you kill them.

America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t by Stephen Colbert (2012). Selected by Malcolm – Clever, relevant, and hilariously scary. (Previously reviewed by The Book Jam.)

The Pearl Thief Cover ImageTrue Letters from a Fictional Life Cover ImageJane Eyre Cover Image

PROTAGANISTS WE LOVE

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein (2017). Selected by Lisa – How people become heroes, WWII History. (Lisa also recommended Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012) and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (2013). The Pearl Thief is the prequel to these two other books by Wein.)

True Letters From A Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan (2016). Selected by MalcolmWryly humorous coming-out story set in Upper Valley.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847). Selected by Hannah – For young souls finding/justifying their strength.
A Collection of Essays Cover ImageNature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World Cover Image

NON-FICTION THAT YOU CAN’T PUT DOWN OR BOOKS FOR THOSE WHO PREFER TRUE STORIES

A Collection of Essays by George Orwell. Selected by Malcolm – Intriguing and darkly insightful retrospective.

Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World by Julia Rothman (2015). Selected by Ms. Owen – Heartfelt renderings gives hours of leafing.

City of Thieves Cover ImageSalt to the Sea Cover Image

BOOKS THAT DO A GREAT JOB TEACHING HISTORY

City of Thieves by David Benioff (2008). Selected by Mr. Deffner – A dozen eggs or your life. (Previously reviewed by The Book Jam.)

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2016). Selected by Ms. Owen – Refugees flee WWII carrying secrets. (Previously reviewed by the Book Jam.)

The Hate U Give Cover ImageNineteen Minutes Cover Image

BOOKS YOU WOULD ASSIGN TO GROWNUPS AS REQUIRED

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017). Selected by Mr. Deffner – Police shooting’s effect on a family. (Previously reviewed by The Book Jam.)

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (2007). Selected by Hannah – Entraps you with thought-encoding thriller.

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BOOKS TO GIVE FRIENDS FOR THEIR BIRTHDAYS

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014). Selected by Lisa – Concise, enlightening case for feminism’s importance. (Previously reviewed by The Book Jam.)

Montana 1948 Cover ImageWhy Not Me? Cover Image

BOOKS FOR FRIENDS WHO DON’T LIKE TO READ

Montana 1948 by Larry Watson (1993). Selected by Mr. Deffner – Moral dilemma with two you love.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (2015). Selected by Malcolm – Inspiring, perspective-changing, and hilarious memoir.

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OUR FABULOUS PRESENTERS

  • Hannah loves reading, (especially Jane Austen) has a fondness for bees, and aspires to be a nurse. She is a junior at Thetford Academy.
  • Malcolm’s favorite things to do are run, read, write, and both watch and create films. He loves distance running and proudly self-identifies as a film nerd. He is seventeen years old and attends Thetford Academy.
  • Ms. Owen runs the TA library and most importantly helps many, many students find the perfect book to read next – even if they aren’t sure they want to read anything.
  • Mr. Deffner coaches cross-country and teaches English at TA when he is not taking his sons on road trips or basketball games.
  • Lisa Christie is the co-founder and co-blogger of the Book Jam. When not coordinating BOOK BUZZ or Pages in the Pub, she is usually reading.

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April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. And, since prevention begins with awareness, we use this opportunity to highlight books that might help you think about sexual violence and its effects. We promise each of these books is a great book in its own right; we just unite them here because they each in some way help us think about how to prevent violence in both words and deeds. They also provide an excuse to once again highlight the important work of WISE — our local organization dedicated to ending gender-based violence through survivor-centered advocacy, prevention, education, and mobilization for social change.

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DDear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions Cover Imageear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2017) – We could call this a follow-up to her best selling We Should All Be Feminists . The first mused; this is more direct.  Enjoy.

We Should All Be Feminists Cover ImageWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014) – A brief treatise of why men and women should be proud to be feminists by an amazing writer. (Makes a great graduation or birthday gift for your favorite older teen.) We include both of Ms. Adichie’s books in this post because we believe that if we could all be feminists, many factors leading to sexual assault would be alleviated, ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

51GxCWpjiuL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (2014)  – Buckle up your backpacks and get ready for playground politics and modern parenting. The lives of three mothers converge on the first day of kindergarten at an upscale elementary school in coastal Australia. Observant, humorous, and also surprising, this “un-putdownable” book explores the lies that we all tell ourselves and each other. Part mystery (someone ends up dead, but who?), part social commentary (in that it bravely explores the very serious issue of domestic abuse), part page-turner, this book is sure not to disappoint. Please note that a  portion of this review was initially published on the Book Jam on December 29, 2014).~ Lisa Cadow

The Distance Between Us: Young Readers Edition Cover ImageThe Distance Between Us: YA version by Reyna Grande (2016) – This book seems especially important with all the recent talk about walls along the US border and hatred towards illegal immigrants.  Ms. Grande has adapted her memoir into this book for young adults. In it, she tells of her life as a toddler in an impoverished town in Mexico, her three attempts to cross into the USA with a coyote as a young child, her life in LA as an illegal immigrant, how her family gained legal status and how she managed college. This is not for the faint hearted due to themes of physical abuse and complicated relationships with parents who are always leaving. But it is important to be informed, and this book will put faces on any political discussions about immigration that the teens in your life might encounter. ~ Lisa Christie

Behind Closed Doors Cover ImageBehind Closed Doors by BA Paris (2017) – This thriller about a completely creepy psychopath and the wife he has trapped inside his life will probably be a better movie than book, but it still had me wondering “WTF?” as I read it in one fell swoop. Read it if you want to explore how not all abuse is physical. ~ Lisa Christie
Quicksand Cover ImageQuicksand by Malin Persson Giolito (2017) – This was truly an amazing thriller. (And, it was named best Swedish crime novel of the year, and well reviewed by the NYTimes.) For fans for court room dramas, we are not sure you can do better than this tale of a teen accused of planning and executing, with her boyfriend, a mass murder of her classmates. The boyfriend died during the mass shooting so she alone remains on trial. As her story unfolds, you can reflect on parenting, teenage life, immigration and contemporary Sweden. Why do we include it in this post? Because part of teen life means dealing with sexuality and pressure and sometimes date rape. Or you can just enjoy a well-told (or at least well-translated) story. ~ Lisa Christie

Milk and Honey Cover ImageMilk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (2015) – Kaur’s book of poetry has been a best-seller since it was released by Andews McMeel Publishing in 2015. Kaur’s powerful words resonate with women of all ages. Her first book includes short, deeply affecting poems and observations written entirely in lower case and with no punctuation except an occasional period.  Kaur divides this, her first book that includes her own line drawings, into four sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing.  The following complete poem, from “the hurting” section of “Milk and Honey” illustrates how much she can accomplish with very few words: “you were so afraid, of my voice, i decided to be, afraid of it too.” We are including this title in today’s post because her work unapologetically addresses difficult women’s issues such as abandonment, self-doubt, exploitation, abuse, and physical shame. But she also blooms when she writes of love, acceptance, and triumph.  Kaur is a 24-year-old artist, poet, and performer who was born in India but who now lives with her family in Canada. Don’t miss her work, she has a lot to say – and don’t forget to pass it on when you’re done. ~Lisa Cadow

The Hate U Give Cover ImageThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017) – As Book Jam readers know, we love this fresh, enlightening, and spectacular book about the black lives lost at the hands of the police every year in the USA. Starr Carter, the teen Ms. Thomas created to put faces on the statistics, straddles two worlds — that of her poor black neighborhood and that of her exclusive prep school on the other side of town. She believes she is doing a pretty good job managing the differing realities of her life until she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend by a police officer. How does it relate to this post? One of the main characters must navigate an aggressively abusive relationship. ~ Lisa Christie

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to help independent booksellers, The Book Jam has paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”. In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. (We have a rotating list of six possible questions to ask just to keep things interesting.) Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work, will encourage readers to attend these special author events, and ultimately, will inspire some great reading.

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image from the March 7, 2017 Boston Globe

This week we feature Andrew Forsthoefel  author of Walking to Listen. Based upon his travels as a new graduate of Middlebury College, when he walked America with a backpack, an audio recorder, copies of Whitman and Rilke, and a sign that read “Walking to Listen”, this book offers us all a chance to hear those Mr. Forsthoefel met along his route.

Walking from his home in Pennsylvania, toward the Pacific, he met people of all ages, races, and inclinations. Currently based in Northampton, Massachusetts, Andrew Forsthoefel is a writer, radio producer, and public speaker.  He facilitates workshops on walking and listening as practices of personal transformation, interconnection, and conflict resolution.

Walking to Listen: 4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time Cover ImageAndrew Forsthoefel will visit the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont at 7 pm on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 to discuss Walking to ListenThe event is free and open to the public. However, reservations are recommended as space is limited.  Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to save your seat.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Cover ImageThe Snow Leopard: (Penguin Orange Collection) Cover ImageA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Cover Image

1.What three books have helped shape you into the writer you are today, and why?

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard, welcomed me into the wonders of contemplative writing—she plumbs the depths of her inner world while exploring her natural surroundings, and the balance becomes a revelatory relationship between her heart and the earth, her mind and and the woods. The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen, is a masterpiece of subtlety and humility, blending spiritual wondering with boots-on-the-ground, embodied experience. And Dave EggersA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was an inspiring model of how to write a memoir from a place of acute self-inquiry, sincerity, and radical transparency. I also gotta pay homage to Walt Whitman and Rainer Maria Rilke—poets, healers, warriors of the heart, makers of beauty and peace.

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2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

I’d have coffee with the Sufi poet Rumi in the desert somewhere, just to be around someone who was so profoundly in love with the world, so willing to feel the full catastrophe of being human without retreating into cynicism or despair. He made medicine of his experiences by translating them into poetry, and his life became an offering by the way he was willing to commit himself to the labor of love, his faith that the human experience is not an irreparable disaster, that it is undergirded by the redemptive potential for connection with oneself, one another, and the planet. Almost a thousand years later, he continues to serve humanity with his words. What a life! We might not even say a single word in our conversation, might just look at each other and smile. After coffee, we’d have to go for a walk.

The Law of Dreams Cover ImageJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption Cover ImageThe New Jim Crow Cover Image

The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety Cover ImageThe End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment Cover ImageBraiding Sweetgrass Cover Image

3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

I just finished The Law of Dreams by Peter Behrens, a heartbreaking novel about one young man’s emigration from Ireland in the 1800s. Couldn’t put it down. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, were recent (and necessary) reads for me, illuminating the racism and oppression laced into and created by our criminal justice system. The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts, and The End of Your World by Adyashanti, arrived in my hands right on time a few months ago, and I’m keeping them on my bedside table to remind me not to fall asleep. Up next: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

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Over two Saturday evenings in April during an event called Tables of Content, generous friends of the Norwich Public Library – our local library, will host dinners in their homes to raise money for our superb librarians and the historic Vermont building they inhabit. Each dinner is based on a book the hosts selected as the theme for their dinner. Adding a bit of mystery to the event, dinner guests choose their dinner assignment by the book selections — the location and hosts are revealed only after books and guests have been matched.

How does this relate to books for you to read?  Well, the event offers a diverse group of hosts, and an eclectic selection of books to read. There is great fiction, some nonfiction about doctors and the Israeli-Palestine conflict, as well as a memoir or two. The books they selected will provide hours of inspired reading no matter what your reading preferences. So, today we share their selections, accompanied by the hosts’ brief review of why they picked the book that they did. We also, as always, link all the books to our fabulous local bookstore – The Norwich Bookstore; each link provides access to more information and published reviews about each of the Tables of Content books. If you live near Norwich, we hope you can participate in this amazing event. And, no matter your location, happy reading!

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The Dinners on Saturday April 1, 2017

Born to Run Cover ImageBorn to Run by Bruce Springsteen (2016) – A memoir by Bruce Springsteen – winner of twenty Grammy awards, Kennedy Center Honors recipient, and an Academy Award – provides the starting point for this dinner’s conversations. We will begin with a discussion of music, and end, well, who knows where. If you wish to critique Bruce as inadequate when compared with Baroque composers or the Beatles, you are welcome. If your heart belongs to Patti Smith, that other rock star turned best-selling author, we’d love to hear from you. Whatever your interest in music, you are welcome to join us for a night in which “The Boss” will be the entry point for discussions about music and life. Food? Well, as of press time, we are uncertain about the menu, but it will definitely be “Born in the USA.” Who knows? We might even go a little crazy and hire a band to entertain us.

Homegoing Cover ImageHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016) – Homegoing is an amazing story about two half-sisters born on the Gold Coast of Africa during the height of the slavery trade; one was sold into slavery, the other was married off to a British slaver. In her debut novel, Yaa Gyasi interweaves the very different paths that the sisters and their descendants follow. Join us for a fun evening of African cuisine and stimulating conversations.

Lunatic Heroes Cover ImageLunatic Heroes by C. Anthony Martignetti (2012) – Join us for a homemade Italian feast as we discuss Lunatic Heroes, a collection of short stories detailing the New England boyhood of the late Italian-American author C. Anthony Martignetti. You’ve likely never heard of this book, but your hosts (and Neil Gaiman) assure you that reading it is time well spent. Martignetti casts an unflinching and insightful eye on his dysfunctional family and details the trials of growing up Italian-American in 1950s New England. Although Martignetti looks back with disgust on what his family tried to serve him for dinner (examples include pigs feet, congealed blood pie, and baby cow stomachs), your hosts will stick to more palatable and better known examples of Italian food. Martignetti, who became a psychotherapist, would no doubt encourage you to bring stories of your own crazy extended family to share over some Barolo.

Steve Jobs Cover ImageSteve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (2011) – It is common knowledge that Steve Jobs was not a nice person. It is also well known that he was one of the most important entrepreneurs and visionaries of our lifetime. Walter Isaacson follows Steve Job’s life from birth to death in the captivating biography, Steve Jobs. Isaacson spent years interviewing and gathering information from over 100 of the closest to most obscure people in Jobs’ life, capturing his best, worst and every moment in between. It is no small feat that over 50% of households in the United States have one or more Apple devices. That being said, does Steve Jobs’ success forgive his behavior? Where would we be without him today and what would I do without my iPhone?! So take a break from your Apple devices and come join us and “Think Different” for a dinner discussion on the genius behind Apple.

Dinners on Saturday April 8, 2017
A Gentleman in Moscow Cover ImageA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (2016) – Set in the early 1920’s Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in a grand hotel for writing a seditious poem. Deprived of his extravagant lifestyle, this gracious gentleman chooses to live a meaningful and full life despite his confinement. We’ll leave behind the current political quagmire as we enjoy a Russian-inspired meal fit for an aristocrat.

God's Kingdom Cover ImageGod’s Kingdom by Howard Frank Mosher (2015) – Howard Frank Mosher was one of Vermont’s most prolific writers. HIs recent death is a loss to all who love to read. Throughout his life, Mr. Mosher chronicled the Northeast Kingdom, and its special way of life, in his multiple novels. In his last book before his death, God’s Kingdom, he explores the Kennison family and its many complexities. Although fiction, the “Kingdom” remains a place apart from the rest of Vermont. Mr. Mosher gives us intimate insights into this special place. A French inspired, Spring Vermont dinner will be served!

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East Cover ImageThe Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan (2007) – The Lemon Tree provides readers with a personalized account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In recounting the decades long friendship of a Jewish settler and a Palestinian refugee, the book explores the passionate issues on both sides. Come enjoy a delicious dinner with your neighbors in what is sure to be an evening full of lively discussion.

Second Suns: Two Trailblazing Doctors and Their Quest to Cure Blindness, One Pair of Eyes at a Time Cover ImageSecond Suns by David Relin (2016 ) – In Second Suns, David Relin tells the amazing story about two doctors (one Nepalese; one American) and how their lives merged with a common goal to rid the world of preventable blindness. Their relatively simple surgical procedure has changed the lives of many in the Himalaya region and in parts of Africa. These doctors are also the co-founders of the Himalayan Cataract Project, which is currently a semi-finalist for a $100M grant from the MacArthur Foundation. Please join us for some tasty Nepalese food, drinks and some engaging conversation about these two incredible humans and the good they are doing in our world.

The Sympathizer: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) Cover ImageThe Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2015) – We have selected The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, a first novel for this writer and the Pulitzer Prizer winner for 2016. It’s a book to be read slowly and relished. The artistry of the prose lingers intriguingly even while the plot and themes discomfort. Food is a minor theme of the book and we will be serving Vietnamese and 1970’s American classics to fully savor this passage: “We did our best to conjure up the culinary staples of our culture, but since we were dependent on Chinese markets our food had an unacceptably Chinese tinge, another blow in the gauntlet of our humiliation that left us with the sweet-and-sour taste of unreliable memories, just correct enough to the evoke the past, just wrong enough to remind us that the past was forever gone, missing along with the proper variety, subtlety, and complexity of our universal solvent, fish sauce.”

When Breath Becomes Air Cover ImageWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (2016) – When Breath Becomes Air is an incredibly eloquent and beautifully written memoir based on the life, and death, of Paul Kalanithi. This brilliant thirty-six year old neurosurgeon was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer just as he was about to complete a decade of training to become a neurosurgeon, and as he approached becoming a father. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? Take a break from the political discussions and come prepared to enjoy a delicious and life-affirming dinner of food and wine among friends and neighbors over vibrant conversation in celebration of our moments here on earth.

THANK YOU and Bon Appetit!

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